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WBS TV journalist threatened with death while on assignment

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - 16 March 2012 - Mulindwa Mukasa, a correspondent with local private television station Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS) TV, was arrested at Nabweru Parents School, a private primary school, while following up a news story about the treatment of the pupils. Mulindwa is the Executive Board chairperson of Human Rights for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).

The school is located in Nabweru village, about 5 kilometers from the capital Kampala, in Nansana town council, Wakiso district. It is owned by Ronald Ddamulira, its Managing Director. His wife, Mrs. Ddamulira, is the school headmistress.

Mulindwa told HRNJ-Uganda that he first registered in the visitors' book, and was ushered into the headmistress's office. Trouble started when he asked the headmistress to comment on the treatment of the pupils.

“I asked her to comment about claims that the students were being mistreated at the school by teachers and other staff members. She was enraged, lost her cool and started shouting at me before calling in three other people. They confiscated my camera and locked it in one of the offices before they called in the police from Nabweru police station. Ddamulira came in moments later, before the police arrived,” Mulindwa told HRNJ-Uganda.

A policeman from Nabweru helped Mulindwa to recover his video camera before referring the matter to Kawempe police division, from where it was settled amicably. He was released without charge by the police division's Crime Investigation's officer.

Mulindwa applauded the professional nature in which they handled the matter. “I must say that the police acted very professionally, right from Nabweru to Kawempe. They advised all of us on how to play our roles better. I should say they are professional enough in their way of work.”

Mulindwa reports that Ddamulira threatened him with death should he go ahead and investigate the story. “He said that he would behead me or employ other means to make me pay dearly if I don't abandon pursuing the story. He said that there were many ways of killing a rat, so he would employ the same on me. He made the threats at Kawempe police division. So I am going to open up a case file against him,” he told the HRNJ-Uganda team, which met him at Kawempe police, soon after his release at around 8:00PM local time.

The threats were confirmed by the WBS TV chief news editor, Patricia Oyella, after she had a meeting with Ddamulira at the WBS TV offices in Naguru.

“Those threats seem real because the man came here and talked to me for about two hours and threatened to kill Mulindwa over the story. He mentioned it three times and said that the police in Kawempe are aware of the same because he had made the first threats in their very presence. He thinks that it is his competitors who are trying to ruin the reputation of the school he has built for such a long time. He said that he would kill him whether the story runs or not, since it was putting his name at stake,” Oyella quoted Ddamulira as having said during the meeting.

Oyella said she values the life of her employee very highly, so she would have to decide on the future of the story in question.

HRNJ-Uganda commends the professional conduct of the police officers who handled the matter, and implores the entire police force to emulate them.

“We take the threats seriously and condemn the act in the strongest terms from an administrator of such a status. We implore the police to take the matter seriously and take action to restrain Ddamulira. Threatening journalists is the main tool used by criminal-minded people, so we call upon him to withdraw such statements and also come clean on the treatment of the pupils, which is being investigated. Otherwise the media should not succumb to such threats but go ahead to expose all forms of injustices and amplify the voices of the unprivileged,” said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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