Kiryandongo, 21st/July/2014; two Vision Group journalists were arrested while on duty by the district chairperson for Kiryandongo, Ben Moro, on 20th/July/2014. They were detained at police before they were charged with criminal trespass and released on bond the following day. He accused them of coming to his district without his prior permission.
Goeffrey Mutegeki and Muhammed Ssendegeya -both Vision Group correspondents in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts in Mid-Western Uganda, were arrested at Alero village by Moro when he intercepted them on their way from interviewing the locals about a borehole which they claim he diverted to personal use yet it was meant to serve the community.
The journalists told Human Rights Network for journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that they were on their way to interview Moro about the allegations labeled against him. “He intercepted us, ordered us into his car which had his wife, son and two local council leaders inside, then drove us to Diima police post where we were detained for a night. He returned the following day and drove us to Kiryndongo police station from where we were charged with criminal trespass and released on bond. We declined to surrender our cameras and cellphones to them.”
“He has a borehole in his home but we don’t know if it’s a personal property, that’s what we wanted to ask from him. We are going to pursue the story; we can’t give up on it just like that.” Mutegeki told HRNJ-Uganda.
Moro accused the journalists of acting unprofessionally by coming to his district without informing the authorities of their presence, and also accused them of being used by his political opponent, one Kassim Owori, who he threatened to drag to court. “Me I have no case against them as long as they become my witnesses in a case against my brother-in-law, Kassim Owori, if they don’t they will be bundled together as trespassers.” He told HRNJ-Uganda
However the Kiryandongo District Police Commander, Patrick Byaruhanga, opposed the detention of the journalists, “There was no need to detain them. How can you arrest and charge journalists with trespass for doing their work, yet they are well-known to us and they always cover our news? The policemen were intimidated and heeded to the orders of the chairman to detain the journalists.
“HRNJ-Uganda condemns the actions of the district chairperson. This amounts to abuse of office and total violation of the fundamental media freedoms as provided for under Article 19. The police should drop these tramped up charges against the journalists. Politicians must desist from using their offices to shield themselves from public scrutiny. We commend the intervention of the Daily Monitor scribe, Francis Mugerwa and DPC Byaruhanga for having the journalists released” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala