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Ugandan police detain, beat radio journalist on her way to work

A female journalist hosting a daily morning radio program was arrested at gunpoint in Gulu by three police officers as she headed to the radio station for work. She alleges that she was punched by one of the arresting police officers as she climbed the police patrol car. This hindered the radio program.

She was later released without any charges.

Atim Brenda Kinyera, the host of a weekly program "Yab wangi", meaning "open your eyes", told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that the police officers who had mounted a joint operation with the army arrested her at gunpoint and confiscated her hand bag and jacket despite her plea that she was a journalist who was heading to work at a nearby radio station, Speak FM.

“I was heading to work at about 6:10 am local time when three police officers – two of them with guns – surrounded me and arrested me at gunpoint as army officers looked on. I told them that I was a journalist heading to radio to present a morning show, but they kept shouting at me calling me a prostitute, they confiscated my hand bag and jacket as they ordered me to board a police patrol. As I was boarding, an officer without a gun punched me on the back when I asked to know why they were arresting me; I feel pain in the back,” Atim told HRNJ-Uganda

Atim was released after the intervention of the area police commander, Denis Odoch who intercepted the patrol car as it drove to the Central Police station. “She rang me when they arrested her, it was during an operation, but she was not part of our target,” Odoch told HRNJ-Uganda.

"When I came to withdraw the troops, I found her arrested. I don't know whether she was beaten or not, but she said she was beaten and intimidated, ” said Odongo Bernard who was commanding the forces.

Atim has opened up a complaints file at the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) in Gulu. The officer-in-charge of Gulu's PSU, Odwogo John, assured HRNJ-Uganda that the matter was going to be investigated, “They are going to handle it, and it's going to be handled by the office of the Regional Police Commander,” he said.

“Security agents, especially the police have been at the forefront of violating media rights and freedoms. We call upon the security forces to fulfill their obligation of ensuring the safety and security of all Ugandans mostly journalists on duty. We also appeal to media houses to ensure the safety of their employees especially those who work and move during the odd hours,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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