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Prison warders detain visiting journalists

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Masaka, 2 December 2011 - Masaka prison warders arrested and briefly detained four journalists for photographing the poor conditions and dire state of the prison.

The four journalists detained were Margaret Kayondo, Ssuubi FM correspondent in Masaka; Lubuuka Ali Ggoloba and Ezekeri Ssekweyama, who both work with Masaka-based Radio Buddu; and Hanifah Namuwonge, who works for "Bukedde", a Luganda newspaper.

The four journalists had been invited by the Southern Buganda Regional Prisons Officer, Julius Asiimwe, to cover World AIDS Day celebrations marked at Masaka Prison on 1 December.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learned that the Officer in Charge (O/C) at Masaka Prison, Simon Wansadha, ordered the arrest of the journalists after they took photos of the interior of one ward where hygiene was in a dire state and sick inmates were apparently not being treated.

The journalists were part of a prison tour with the Irish Ambassador Anne Webster, the chief guest.

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that when the journalists were leaving the prison, prison warders arrested them on O/C Wansadha's orders and detained them in one room. They were searched and their hand bags and cameras confiscated.

"We were released after one hour of unlawful detention but our cameras were missing. Upon our release we stormed Wansadha's office and demanded our cameras be returned and an explanation given for detaining us. He later returned our cameras with some photos erased," Namuwonge told HRNJ-Uganda. She added that the group wants to see O/C Wansadha and his team apprehended for their behaviour.

HRNJ-Uganda contacted O/C Wansadha to get his side of the story but he denied any knowledge of the incident.

"Such actions are the sole reason why freedom of expression and the press continue to be undermined in Uganda and there's a need to deal with it straightaway. It's very clear that O/C Wansadha overstepped his mandate and the only way to fight this kind of impunity is to hold him in his individual capacity liable for his misdeeds," said HRNJ-Uganda.

HRNJ-Uganda has taken up the matter through its lawyers to ensure that O/C Wansadha is punished.

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