Journalist narrates his experience in police custody.

Abubaker Muwonge at Central Police Station after being arrested Photo: Mulindwa Mukasa

Yesterday I was arrested.

I thank all journalists, journalists organizations, International Journalists rights bodies, filmmakers, who worked hard to secure my release. I am out on Police bond.

First time for me in a police cell. I have tried to avoid it. Over 30 years, I had never even been in a village council disciplinary meeting to answer for any crime. I am such a good law abiding citizen. I intend to continue, God willing.

I was surprised at the cleanliness in the police cells. And the discipline. True those guys in the cells are so disciplined down there. May be they have no choice but to be disciplined. First thing you do is to have a bath. Forceful bath. You have to remove all your clothes. No one cares how you are endowed. Then they search your clothes for any money.

Then I had to clean as a new member. And I was meant to be the night’s chief entertainer. Its a rule. You are new, you sing and dance for fellow inmates. As a good dancer, that was supposed to be an easy task. My past life some how prepared me to feel comfortable in rough atmospheres.

AS JOURNALISTS, we are not above the law. That I know. And I am sure I did not break any law. However this is a difficult time for journalists in Uganda. Many have been arrested by police covering Kizza Besigye. And released with out any charge. Our brother Lwanga was beaten by police commander. He is paralyzed.

What can we do as journalists in Uganda? First lets do our work lawfully. Lets operate with in the law. Even if you are arrested working with in the law, it will be easy for fellow journalists and well wishers to get you out.

Field reporters/photographers, alert your editors when going out to cover any political story. Incase you are arrested, injured, the editors will know and hopefully understand. And editors, stand with your field personnel. Protective gear should be a must.

I thank the HRNJ-Uganda. Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda. This is a good initiative. All journalists in Uganda, I advise you to have phone numbers of the good men and women of HRNJ-Uganda. They spent a day with me at police with a lawyer ready to help us ( Me and the Red Pepper Colleague)

We need to stand United as journalists now than ever before. Lets make more whats app groups. Smart phones should be a part of all of us. When you are arrested, twit, send a simple quick message on Facebook, or whatsapp. Let colleagues know. LETS MAKE NOISE once one of us is in trouble. I prefer it better be lawful trouble.

Do not resist arrest. Comply. Be humble and polite. Identify your self as a journalist. Do we have to hate the security Forces as journalists? Its a personal opinion. But my opinion is that we need them, the way they need us. So I do not hate them. Take them out for a cup of tea when you can. Some of the police and military guys are actually very nice people. Some are bad. Like civilians/Wanainchi any ways. That’s life. Some people are good others are not good to us. For no reason sometimes.

I intend to continue with my journalism. Where is the next story guys?

By Abubaker Muwonge

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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