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Journalist grilled over opposition leader story

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 9 March 2011 - The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) arrested and interrogated "Daily Monitor" journalist Tabu Butagira over a story on Dr. Kiiza Besigye, opposition leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Under the tagline "Uganda decides", the "Daily Monitor" published the interview with Dr. Besigye on 28 February 2011, with the headline "Besigye; I can't rule out war".

The SIU is a newly established unit under the Uganda Police Force.

The agency based in Naguru, a Kampala suburb, summoned Butagira to assist police in its investigations.

Butagira, flanked by lawyers James Nangwala and Timothy Ntale, was interrogated for about an hour by detectives who tried to extract information to be used against Besigye.

"Police tried to extract information to implicate some people but we warned them against abusing the journalism code of ethics that empowers journalists to protect their sources," said Nangwala.

Butagira is the second journalist at the "Daily Monitor" after Robert Mwanje to be compelled to testify against his sources.

"Such police actions are illegal and an insult to the journalism profession. Why do the security agencies want to make journalists in Uganda enemies to everybody including members of the public? They should stop using us to fight their wars," said Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda demands respect for the journalism profession and understanding of the core values of the profession, including the protection of sources of information.

Butagira wrote a two paged statement at the agency's offices before Nangwala and detective Mafabi giving an account of the interview with Rt. Col. Besigye.

The journalist was later released.

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