This Alert was originally published by HRNJ-Uganda on February 8, 2016.
BBC correspondent in Uganda, Catherine Byaruhanga was on February 6, 2016 arrested by the police with two others for allegedly filming the Abim Hospital in the Abim district in northern Uganda without permission.
The trio was charged with trespassing and was taken to the Abim Central Police station for questioning. They were also asked to delete the recordings which they refused.
The journalists added that they filmed the premises from outside since the Ministry of Health denied them access to the hospital premises and therefore were innocent of all charges. Security agents at the station accused the journalists of having the intention to promote bad news about the district.
Abim hospital shot to the lime light in December 5, 2015 when opposition presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye visited the facility during a campaign trail. TV stations covering the politician’s visit carried footages that showed the deplorable state of the facility, with no medical staff to attend to patients. The dreadful images resulted in locals shunning the hospital. The officer who took Besigye around was made to face “disciplinary proceedings” and subsequently suspended by the district authorities. Moments after this embarrassing spectacle, the Electoral Commission stopped all political candidates from visiting the hospital and other health centers in the country. Police was deployed to enforce the ban on politicians’ access.
The journalists were released without charges.They were neither manhandled nor beaten.
“We commend the journalists for their firm and justified refusal to delete their material and for demanding to know their alleged crime. Police should desist from criminalizing the work of journalists and unlawfully interfering with their news materials. The police should instead ensure the safety and security of journalists as they do their work,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.