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Uganda: Police Arrest Journalists and Musician protesting the Unauthorized use of Song by Telecommunication Company.

This Alert was originally published by HRNJ-Uganda on January 19, 2016.

Four journalists and a local artist were on January 18, 2016, arrested and detained at Jinja Road police in Kampala for over seven hours. Eddie Muhumuza of Hub for Investigative Media (HIM), Kenson Bugembe and Mohamed Safe from Uganda Media Center, were arrested for taking pictures of, Kaweesa Richard as he demanded payment of 52 million (USD15,295) Uganda shillings for his song from Africell.

Muhumuza and Kaweesa were both charged with criminal trespass granted police bond after seven hours of detention while Bugembe and Safe were forced to delete pictures of Kaweesa in chains and released without charge.

Muhumuza told HRNJ-Uganda that, “I took photos of Kaweesa in chains while I was standing across the road opposite Africell offices but I was shocked when police arrested me for criminal trespass and confiscated my gadgets.”

The trio were covering Kaweesa who had chained himself and sat on a mat with placards at Africell Telecommunications headquarters on Clement Hill Road in Kampala demanding for 52 million Uganda shillings (USD15,295) for using his song ‘Ani akuba babie wange’ literally translated as ‘Who is beating my baby’ without permission.

“Africell has been infringing the copyright since February 2014 when their five year contract expired. I wrote to them to stop the infringement but they declined and never responded to my warnings through my lawyers, so I decided to fight this injustice by protesting at their headquarters. Unfortunately I was arrested, handcuffed and detained here,” Kaweesa told HRNJ-Uganda from Jinja Road police Station. Police confiscated all the materials he had.

In another development, Police arrested Ntege Williams from the police headquarters in Naguru, a Kampala suburb and charged him with being a public nuisance. Ntege had gone to demand for compensation of his video camera which was smashed by police on October 7, 2012 as he covered the arrest of the opposition politician Dr. Kizza Besigye. He reported the matter to the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura who instructed his aides to compensate him. Ntege was released on police bond.

“Since Kayihura told them to compensate me, they started dodging and ignoring my phone calls. So I decided to head to the police headquarters to seek for audience with the IGP. When they saw me there, they hurriedly arrested me and detained me at Jinja Road Police Station with my seven months old baby.” Ntege told HRNJ-Uganda. In 2014, Ntege was convicted and sentenced to two months in jail for being a public nuisance when he went to Parliament to petition the Speaker, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga against police brutality on journalists.

All the three will report back on Friday January 22, 2016.

“We believe that a section of the police have accepted to be used to witch-hunt journalists seeking to expose the injustices of society. How is it criminal to photograph a protester seeking for compensation? The police should promote justice for all at all times. This is a trumped up charge which should be dropped.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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