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Ugandan police arrest journalists in escalating crackdown on free expression

Three journalists have been arrested by police at Wandegeya police station in Kampala. One of them, Kisuule Richard aka Kamagu, a radio presenter, was picked up from Top Radio in the Bwaise suburb of Kampala for hosting an opposition politician. He has been charged with inciting violence, and transferred to the Central Police Station (CPS) at Kampala to reduce the swelling number of journalists who were storming the station in solidarity with their colleagues.

The Top Radio station manager, Nicholas Nyombi said that he received orders from his boss that the broadcast regulatory body, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) had order the radio to stop forthwith the one-hour-long talkshow which had only run for about 25 minutes, or risked having the station being switched off.

The Commissioner for Media Crimes at the Crime Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID), Simon Kuteesa told HRNJ-Uganda that Kamagu was arrested for inciting violence.

The others are Mulindwa Mukasa – the Board Chairperson of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) – and Halima Uthman of the Uganda Radio Network (URN), who was accused of taking a photo of Kamagu while seated in one of the rooms at the police station. She was however released without a charge.

Mulindwa is in detention at Wandegeya police. The station police commander, Tusingwire, said that he was likely to charge him with “either obstruction or disobeying lawful orders”, adding that, “I will release him if he deletes a photo of me that he took”. Mulindwa, who is being represented by HRNJ-Uganda lawyer, Diana Nandudu, is yet to record a statement.

The arrests come just a day after close to 20 journalists were blocked from accessing the City Hall premises to cover the controversial impeachment of the city's Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, and barely a week since the president's representative in the city, Samwel Mpimbaza Hashaka wrote a warning letter to a media house over hosting Lukwago, a member of the opposition.

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  • Political battle leads to arrests, other collateral damage for media

    Mukwasa, who works for Wavah Broadcasting Services and heads the board of the Human Rights for Journalists Network (HRNJ-U), was detained when he tried to visit Kasule and was taken into custody on a charge of obstructing the police and refusing to obey their orders. A woman reporter for the news agency Uganda Radio Network was also arrested, and was only released after a member of the agency’s management contacted a senior police officer.

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