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Post-election media clampdown in Uganda: 8 reporters arrested in one day

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda 21 February 2016
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks during a news conference at his home at the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda 21 February 2016

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

This statement was originally published on on 29 February 2016.

On 29 February 2016, Ugandan police arrested a total of eight (8) journalists. Six were arrested in Kasangati over allegations of inciting violence. Two others were arrested outside the State House at Nakasero over alleged criminal trespass. The arrests happened as Dr. Kizza Besigye [an opposition leader who had run for presidency] was anticipated to leave his home to attend a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party meeting, at the [political party's] headquarters in Najjanankubi. Besigye was immediately arrested and whisked away by security. Its the ninth time the opposition leader is being arrested since the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were held on 18 February 2016.

Six journalists were detained at Kasangati Division police station. The other two journalists were arrested when covering a story of two abandoned piglets outside the State House. They were detained at the Central Police Station, Kampala.

The Kasangati victims included: Elijah Turyagumanawe of NBS television, Dean Saava Lubowa of NBS, Mukose Arnold of Salt Radio, Sendegeya Mohammed of CBS, Kiwanuka Stephen and Nakiwala Faridah of BBS television, who were arrested in the morning near Dr. Besigye' residence on the orders of Kasangati Divisional Police Commander, James Kawalya. They were taken to Kasangati police station, detained for a short time and released without any charge.

In Kampala, police grabbed Abubaker Muwonge of China Central Television (CCTV) and Francis Otucu of Red Pepper Publications, accusing them of filming a box of piglets that was dumped outside of State House by unknown people. Police claim that they were trespassing in the premises of State House.

Muwonge's video camera and smartphone were confiscated by the police and forced to reveal the password of his phone. Muwonge was later released on police bond after being detained for over 7 hours in police cells. He was charged with criminal trespass.

Lubowa told HRNJ-Uganda that, “I don't know if police has a different constitution that allows them to stop us from doing our work. We went to Besigye's home when we heard that he was going to move out. We had gone to do our work like we normally do, only for the Division Police Commander of Kasangati Police Station James Kawalya to order for our arrest. They took us to Kasangati police station where they held us for some time. My colleague Elijah Turyagumanawe of NBS TV was detained in police cells.”

On Saturday, 27 February 2016, six journalists were arrested near Besigye's home, released without charge and ordered to vacate the area or risk facing the consequences. Last week, police pepper-sprayed Isaac Kasamani, a correspondent for AFP, as he took pictures of Besigye' arrest. It has become increasingly dangerous for journalist covering the activities around Besigye's home and his continued house incarceration.

'We highly condemn the continued actions by the Uganda Police Force of arresting and detaining journalists without any justifiable reason. Such actions violate their constitutionally guaranteed right of practicing their profession. The police should stop this continued persecution of journalists,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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