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Ugandan journalist arrested while reporting on disagreement between orphanages

A journalist working with government-owned television station Urban TV (in Kampala), has been detained by police without being arraigned in court. Jude Okech Jorum was arrested on 1 October 2013 in Naluvule, Wakiso district, as he covered a disagreement and fall-out between two orphanage homes. He was accused of criminal trespass.

A journalist who preferred anonymity told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that Okech was arrested by police at about 2:00 pm local time, along with six other suspects. He said that Okech's camera and laptop were damaged during a scuffle to arrest him. He added that the seven people were rounded up at St. Noah's family orphanage at Naluvule, locked in a house until police came and arrested them.

Okech was first detained at Kawempe police station for two nights before he was transferred to Nansana and later to Buloba police station in the Wakiso district. "They have been charged with criminal trespass, but [I] am going to give them bond and release them," the officer in charge of criminal investigations in the Wakiso police district, George Mpungu, told HRNJ-Uganda.

HRNJ-Uganda was unable to talk to Okech as we failed to get access to him in custody. His father, Dr. JB Okech told HRNJ-Uganda that he was disappointed with the police for detaining his son for four days contrary to the constitutional provision of 48 hours. "I have put it in writing to them that it is unconstitutional – detaining him for this number of days." He said.

The coordinator of God's Grace Orphanage at Kyebando in Kampala, Ronald Mutebi, told HRNJ-Uganda that their arch rivals, St. Noah's Family were using the police to arrest and detain whoever criticizes them.

“The detention of the journalist and other accused persons for more than forty-eight hours is unlawful and therefore amounts to abuse of the Constitution by the police. The detainees must be released from the cells unconditionally since [the] police has failed to arraign them in court. The police should promote and protect the freedom of expression and information; it should therefore protect journalists as they do their work,” said HRNJ-Uganda's National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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