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Uganda: Counter Terrorism Police arrest journalist

The Counter Terrorism Police, yesterday September 23, 2015 arrested a journalist from a court room in Kampala, detained him for one and a half hours accusing him of indulging in “ work that is not his”. He was released without any charges.

Derrick Kiyonga a court reporter with the Observer newspaper was arrested at around 1.00pm as he came out of the court where he is covering the case of the people suspected to have planted the twin bombs in Kampala in 2010 during the world cup final that killed more than 70 people and injured several.

As i was coming out of the court room, a counter terrorism officer stood in front of me and said you are under arrest. He took me to a police patrol car, forced me in and drove off at a break neck speed to place I did not know,” Kiyonga told HRNJ-Uganda.

He said he was put in a room, ordered to remove his shoes. His phone and note book were taken away before he was subjected to questioning. “Three men started interrogating me. They asked me what relationship I have with the suspects in court, my family background, my parents and so many other things.”

Earlier on while in court Kiyonga had been summoned by a plain clothed police officer and warned over passing on chits from the suspects to their lawyers. “I got concerned and told Caleb about the warning by the security officer. I passed on the chit innocently and did not know the contents therein. Journalists usually do it because they sit between suspects and their lawyers”. Said Kiyonga. Caleb Alaka raised Kiyonga’s concerns with the trial judge, Alphose Owiny Dollo. The judge ruled that there was no problem with what the journalist had done and warned the security from intimidating people in court. He said the suspects have a right to consult their lawyers.

When the court session ended, Kiyonga was arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination. In the afternoon, the defence lawyer Caleb raised the matter again to the judge who said he will not continue with the trial until the journalist is released.

The Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, Onyango Patrick, told HRNJ-Uganda that Kiyonga was arrested “for doing work which was not his”. Why was he doing work which is not his? Onyango asked.When asked what offence Kiyonga committed for passing on a chit from a suspect to his lawyer, Onyango said “you read law books”.

“HRNJ-Uganda is pleased by the actions taken by Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo. The Uganda Police Force has an obligation to respect rule of law and the Judiciary as an institution of justice. Free flow of information should not be curtailed on mere suspicion by police” said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.

Originally published on HRNJ-Uganda’s WEBSITE

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