Uganda:Police Detain Journalist for Photographing a Suspect at Court

A court reporter working with the Vision Group, Betty Amamukirori was on June 18, 2016 arrested by the police at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo, a Kampala suburb for photographing a suspect during a court break. She declined to delete the said photos, and later released without a charge.

Betty told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that she was arrested by the police upon photographing a suspect, one Patrick James Bamwise Kakaire, 64 years, a resident of Jinja district who was convicted of a land matter in which he converted family land into his names without the authority of the 22 beneficiaries. The Presiding Judge Paul Mugamba convicted him to UGX4.5million (1,300 USD) fine or serves four years imprisonment.

Betty was detained for almost 2 hours on the orders of Bamwise’s daughter, a one Tabitha (said to be an employee of the Ugandan Parliament), in a bid to force her to delete the photos. Betty said that the police officers at the court led by one Anyanga tried to intimidate her to surrender the camera but declined, “The police were ordering me to delete the photo, they threatened to undress me and search everywhere for the camera which I had used to take the convict’ photo. I identified myself to them twice as a Vision Group reporter, but they continued harassing me on Tabitha’ orders. The police were not helpful at all.” Betty told HRNJ-Uganda at the Court soon after her release.

Another court reporter, Veronica Kayaga, who witnessed the incident, told HRNJ-Uganda that much as the Court Clerk explained to the police that what the journalist had done was okay since the photo was taken during a court break, they were defiant and continued to force Betty to delete the said photo.

“We are happy that Betty’s fellow court reporters rushed to her defence. We urge the court authorities to ensure the protection of the court reporters who face safety and security challenges from irrational individuals within court. The police should desist from being used to violate media freedoms. They should guarantee the safety and security of all court reporters especially those covering highly sensitive cases.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda