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HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist detained over minister story (Demo)

Kampala, 19th/May/2015; A Red Pepper journalist, Alex Bukhumune was arrested and detained on 19th of May 2015 for investigating a story involving the State Minister for Energy, Ronald James Du’janga. He was later released at about 7:00pm on charges of threatening violence.

Bukhumune was first arrested on 15th/May/2015 by Kabalagala police officers and charged with ‘criminal defamation’ for investigating a land dispute-related story involving Du’janga. Bukhumune was arrested from the High Court premises in Kampala by two plain-clothed officers who tricked him by saying they had a news story to give him, only to declare him ‘under arrest for threatening violence’ against a minister. They then ordered him into a salon car and whisked him away to Kabalagala police station, from where he was released on bond after six hours.

Bukhumune told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he was arrested after sending a text message to Du’janga on May 14, asking him about murder allegations labeled against him by relatives of two deceased owners of a piece of land in Kabalagala –a Kampala suburb which they claim Du’janga had taken over through his son under mysterious circumstances.

“I called Hon. Du’janga about five times on his mobile number but he was not picking, so I decided to send him a text message asking him about the allegations. He didn’t reply. Moments later, his Lawyer, Joseph Luzige called me and explained the circumstances about the allegations and the related case against the minister which is at the Nakawa Court. Luzige threatened legal action if we went ahead to write the story. I was surprised when I was arrested and charged with defamation over a story I had not published. The police officers claimed that they had orders from above to cause my arrest and detention or else they get fired.” Bukhumune told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview.

Luzige confirmed to HRNJ-Uganda that Du’janga forwarded to him the said text message, “Hon. Du’janga forwarded to me the text message, claiming that this person was making false allegations against him. I called the journalist who came with two of his other colleagues, and then I gave them the facts about the matter. Am not aware of the arrest, if anyone did it, I don’t think it is right. Seeking for someone’s side to a story is not a crime.” Luzige said

The Officer in Charge of Criminal investigations at Kabalagala Police, Nusurah Kemigisha told HRNJ-Uganda that the minister reported the matter to police. “We saw the text message, but we just want to harmonize things. We hope to meet the journalist together with the minister. Bukhumune was due to report back to police on May 21st, 2015, but was called to report today (May 19, 2015), where his bond was revoked and he was detained under unclear circumstances. Du’janga told HRNJ-Uganda, that he had recorded a statement at the police. “How police handles my matter is up to them,” he said.

Bukhumune has been ordered to report to the Police’s compliance unit in Ntinda on the 20th May 2015 for further interrogation.

The fact that the police is arbitrarily changing the charges against the journalists is an indication that they are tramped up. It is ethical and good practice for journalists to balance their stories, so the minister should not criminalize these efforts. We appeal to the police to desist from yielding to political pressures in total disregard of the law.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

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