This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 22 April 2020.
Police in Kamuli released Tom Gwebayanga, a Vision Group correspondent in Buyende district, on 22nd April 2020. He spent a night in a police cell at Kamuli Central Police Station, on charges of spreading harmful propaganda under case file no. CRB 436/2020. He is to report back on 1 May 2020.
When Gwebayanga was contacted after his release, he told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that his arrest is related to a story that was published in New Vision on 21 April 2020. “I wrote a story in the New Vision talking about the theft of money that was donated by the International Development Institute to fight COVID-19. The organization gave 80 million shillings to the district COVID-19 task force in cash, but they [the task force] decided to share the money. The RDC got to know and wasn’t happy with the decision,” said Gwebayanga.
He added that he received a call at 2 pm local time on 21 April 2020 from the Vice Chairperson of Kamuli district Vincent Galisansana inviting him to have a meeting, only to find him with the entire team of the district task force at Kamuli district headquarters. He was interrogated and asked to disclose his source of information which he declined to do. “They asked me where I got the information and I refused, they took me in another room and forced me to apologise in the presence of a police officer who had a gun,” Gwebayanga said.
He also told HRNJ-Uganda that he was assaulted by the Kamuli District Health Officer( DHO) Aggrey Batezaki. He opened up a case of assault vide SD Ref. 25/22/4/2020.
The Kamuli District Police Commander (DPC) Madiri Ahmed confirmed the release to HRNJ-Uganda and said “in the morning he was given a bond at around 11:00 am. He was charged with giving false information which was not verified, spreading harmful propaganda, defamation and inciting the public.”
He revealed that Gwebayanga was arrested after the Kamuli Chief Administrative Officer Namanda Elizabeth lodged a complaint at Kamuli Central Police Station.
On 21 April 2020, New Vision published a story on page 24 alleging that the Kamuli District COVID-19 team had on Saturday 18 April 2020 disagreed on the allocation of 80m shillings after the district technical team insisted that the money be distributed among the members of the COVID-19 task force.
“Journalists are the eyes and the ears of the public and their cardinal role is to keep the public informed. Holding public officials accountable should not be a crime against journalists,” said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director, Robert Ssempala.
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Source: MEDIA FEED