Media clamp down as police arrest six journalists in Kasangati and two others in Kampala.

Isaac Kasamani (red shirt) being pepper sprayed by a police officer in civilian clothes at Besigye's home Photo: AP

Kasangati, 1st March 2016; Uganda Police has on Monday February 29th 2016, arrested a total of eight (8) journalists; six at Kasangati on allegations of inciting violence and two others outside State House at Nakasero for alleged criminal trespass. The arrest happened as Dr. Besigye was anticipated to leave his home to attend an FDC party meeting, at their headquarters in Najjanankubi. He was immediately arrested and whisked away by security. Its the ninth time the opposition leader is being arrested since the Presidential and parliamentary elections held on 18th February 2016.

The journalists at Kasangati were covering the ongoing story of the in-house arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye, a former Presidential candidate on the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) ticket. They were detained at Kasangati Division police station, while the duo was arrested when covering a story of two abandoned piglets outside the State House; they were detained at the Central Police Station, Kampala.

The Kasangati victims included; Elijah Turyagumanawe of NBS television, Dean Saava Lubowa of NBS, Mukose Arnold of Salt Radio, Sendegeya Mohammed of CBS, Kiwanuka Stephen and Nakiwala Faridah of BBS television who were arrested in the morning near Dr. Besigye’ residence on the orders of Kasangati Divisional Police Commander, James Kawalya. They were taken to Kasangati police station, detained for a short time and released without any charge.

In Kampala, police grabbed Abubaker Muwonge of China Central Television (CCTV) and Francis Otucu of Red Pepper Publications accusing them of filming a box of piglets that was dumped outside of State House by unknown people. Police claim that they were trespassing in the premises of State House. Muwonge’s video camera and smart phone were confiscated by the police and forced to reveal the password of his phone. Muwonge was later released on police bond after being detained for over 7 hours in police cells. He was charged with criminal trespass.

Lubowa told HRNJ-Uganda that, “I don’t know if police has a different Constitution that allows them to stop us from doing our work; we went to Besigye’s home when we heard that he was going to move out. We had gone to do our work like we normally do only for the Division Police Commander of Kasangati Police Station James Kawalya to order for our arrest. They took us to Kasangati police station where they held us for some time. My colleague Elijah Turyagumanawe of NBS TV was detained in police cells.”

On Saturday 27th February 2016, six journalists were arrested near Besigye’s home, released without charge and ordered to vacate the area or risk facing the consequences. Last week police pepper-sprayed Isaac Kasamani, a correspondent for AFP, as he took pictures of Besigye’ arrest. It has become increasingly dangerous for journalists covering the activities around Besigye’s home and his continued house incarceration.

We highly condemn the continued actions by the Uganda Police Force of arresting and detaining journalists without any justifiable reason. Such actions violate their constitutionally guaranteed right of practicing their profession. The police should stop this continued persecution of journalists.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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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