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Uganda: Police arrests journalists covering meeting of opposition leaders

Six journalists were on Saturday February 27, 2016 arrested by Ugandan police, for attempting to cover the visit of opposition leader Amama Mbabazi to the home of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)’ Dr. Kizza Besigye, who is under house arrest. They were bundled into a police van, driven away and later released without charge. Police cited security in the area as the reason for their arrest.

Journalists who were arrested include, Abubaker Lubowa and Mukiibi Eriasa Sserunjogi both of the Daily Monitor, Abubaker Muhamed Zirabamuzaale, Nicholas Bumulanzeeki of the Observer, Mugerwa Gerald of Delta TV and Suhair Boss Mugabi of NTV who were standing on the opposite side of the road towards Dr Kizza Besigye’s home awaiting the visit of former prime minister and presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi when police pounced on them. The arrest was ordered Division Police Commander, Kasangati, James Kawalya. Two TV journalists, Jordan Mubangizi and Moses Namayo, who eluded the arrest, were chased by police when they noticed that they were recording the fracas. They jumped into their car and sped off.

The journalists told HRNJ-Uganda that they were beaten inside the police van. “When they put us in the police van, one of the police officers jumped over and hit me in the back. We were at their mercy, they had guns, tear gas and pepper spray,” one of the victims told HRNJ-Uganda. He added “we suspect the intention was to stop us from covering Amama’s visit to Besigye’s home”.

The journalists were taken before Police Human Resource Director, Andrew Felix Kaweesi who released them. He ordered them to leave the area citing ‘security reasons’. Kaweesi told HRNJ-Uganda that “the journalists will be called by police in case of any news.”

Amama Mbabazi who arrived with food items was also barred by police from accessing Besigye’s home. Besigye was put under house arrest a day after the presidential and parliamentary elections, held on February 18, 2016. Police claims that, the former presidential contestants want to cause chaos in the city. Police have since, barred journalists from accessing Besigye’s residence and decided to camp at the road leading to his home to capture the events as they unfold.

Earlier this week, AFP correspondent, Isaac Kasamani was pepper-sprayed while taking a photograph of police arresting Besigye. Police said they are investigating two white journalists who demanded that DPC Kawalya explains and reveals the identity of the officer who pepper-sprayed Kasamani.

“The security forces and other government authorities should desist from character assassinating journalists assigned to cover opposition related activities. They should let the media freely cover any form of news including from those critical of the government.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

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