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Journalist detained, assaulted by police

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 11 April 2011 - Journalist Ssemakula Bambalazabwe, of the Bukedde television station, was arrested and detained for 12 hours at the Mutundwe police post.

Ssemakula was arrested on 9 April 2011 at 9pm while covering a scuffle at Kampala University's Mutundwe campus between students and the university administration. The scuffle ensued after some of the students' property had been thrown out of a building in a bid to create space for new foreign students.

The journalist was arrested by a group of drunk police officers led by one policeman named Asimwe who beat him. Ssemakula sustained injuries to his ankle and other parts of his body.

The journalist was taken to the Mutundwe police post, while police officers made off with his money totaling 80,000 Uganda shillings (approx. US$30).

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that by the time of Ssemakula's arrest, he was filming the scuffle. He was at first confronted by the university dean of students, who was only identified as Harriet, who accused him of being an intruder.

"Five policemen confronted me and I was accused of filming them while on duty. I was arrested, handcuffed and assaulted. I was manhandled and later dumped at the Mutundwe police post. While I was in the cells, the police denied me the right to communicate to my family or bosses," said Ssemakula.

Bukedde Television editor Hannington Muluuta told HRNJ-Uganda that Ssemakula was detained without charge and recorded a statement after their intervention.

"We met the Officer in Charge of the police post known as Rugumayo who was not aware of the journalist's detention. Most policemen at the post are drunk and we also saw many inmates being harassed inside the police cells," said Muluuta. Ssemakula was charged with inciting violence and released on police bond.

HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest terms possible the acts of violence against Ssemakula. Now that the matter has been brought to the attention of A/IGP Asan Kasingye, the organisation calls for an immediate investigation into the conduct of police officers at the Mutundwe police post and their prosecution.

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