Masaka, 19th/June/2012; A Vision Group journalist has been arrested in court and detained for about an hour in a court cell at Masaka High Court.Namuwonge Hanifah, a reporter with the government media outlets; Bukedde Television, Bukedde Newspaper and Bukedde FM was arrested on the orders of Grade One Magistrate Doreen Ajuna during a court session involving a Masaka-based business tycoon accused of robbery and murder.
Commercial (Boda boda) motorcyclists in Nyendo in the Central region accuse Kafuuma Faisal of stealing motorcycles and murdering the cyclists. He was arrested on 08th/May/2012.Namuwonge is the Vice President of the Masaka-based South Buganda Journalists’ Association (SOBUJA). She told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that she had not started capturing the proceedings when the Magistrate charged at her.
“I was writing a note to pass on to her asking for permission to capture the image of the suspect, but when she saw me, she charged at me asking what I was writing in her court without her permission. I explained but she became more furious and as a result she ordered for my arrest. She told the Court Clerk, one Kazibwe to bring a police officer one Wetaka who led me out to a Court cell in which I was detained for about an hour. She said that she was tired of journalists.” narrated Namuwonge soon after her release.“I want to discipline you people. Go there (cell) and see.” Namuwonge quotes Ajuna as having said. The cell contained another woman inmate with her baby.
Namuwonge was released after the intervention of a Ssuubi FM journalist Margaret Kayondo who approached the Magistrate and pleaded for her by presenting the note asking for permission which Namuwonge was writing at the time in court.“I went to her after that court session and pleaded for my colleague with whom I was in court. The Magistrate said that she was tired of journalists and would therefore convene a meeting to block journalists from covering court proceedings. She cautioned her in absentia before ordering for her release.
Upon her release, Namuwonge was given back her video camera and two mobile phone handsets which had been confiscated.This incident comes at a time when the Judicial Service Commission is investigating into the alleged misconduct of Justice Faith Mwondha of throwing out journalists from her open court sessions without a clear reason. The investigation was prompted by HRNJ-Uganda which petitioned the Commission and the Principal Judge seeking for intervention to restrain Mwondha from witch-hunting the media. This was as a result of various incidents in Kampala, Jinja and Entebe where she reportedly threw out journalists from courtrooms for no clear reason.
“HRNJ-Uganda is dismayed by the conduct of the Magistrate. This act infringes the rights and freedoms of journalists and the media. The journalists are the people’s eyes and ears who need not to be thrown out of open courts. We therefore would appeal to the Judicial Service Commission to expedite the investigations into Justice Mwondha as this will protect and restrain judicial officers from harassing media practitioners.” said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.