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Radio Simba journalist goes missing

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - A Radio Simba journalist, Arafat Nzito, has been missing since 3 November 2010 and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Nzito, 23 years old, was picked up by plain-clothed men in a Toyota vehicle at around 2:00 p.m. from the Radio Simba offices.

He is a resident of Kitintale, Nakawa division, in Kampala, Uganda's capital city.

Radio Simba's chief news editor, Emmanuel Okello, told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that Nzito's disappearance followed him receiving numerous phone calls about meeting some people in the station's parking lot, about 30 meters away.

Nzito left his work half done and went to meet these people but he never returned to complete filing his news story. He did not return the following day either.

According to an eye witness who declined to be identified, Nzito was whisked away by four men in a vehicle with tinted windows at around 2:30 p.m. He first talked to them before he sat in the back seat in between two men. The witness did not notice the car registration number.

Nzito joined Radio Simba in 2009 as an intern student, and upon completion of his internship, he was enrolled as a reporter but was on probation for two months. He regularly reports news from the police and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, which is the leading opposition political party in Uganda.

"He did not return to the office to complete the story, so I called his cell phone but he was not picking up. He did not report the next day, so I called again, but no response. When I called again in the afternoon, the phone had been switched off," said Okello.

Nzito's sister, Hadijah Nantambi, told HRNJ-Uganda that she noticed his absence on 5 November and that his cell phone was off.

"When his phone remained off all through the night, I reported the matter to police and searched at various police stations and the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) - a serious crime unit - but we could not find him. We are very scared for his life, we need help," said Nantambi.

The commandant of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), James Mugira, was surprised when HRNJ-Uganda contacted him over the matter. "It is news to me, but I am dispatching a team to investigate the young man's disappearance," Mugira said.

"We are greatly concerned about such incidents; these threats are real and come at a time when politics is at its peak in Uganda, ahead of the general elections early next year. Justice should prevail all the time, so Nzito's captors should use the courts of law if they suspect him of some crime," said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala.

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