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Political coverage becomes risky for the journalists in Uganda (Demo)

Kaseses, 2nd/October/2019; Kaguta Joel, a journalist working with Messiah Radio in Kasese western Uganda was yesterday 1st October 2019 released without charge by Kasese Central Police Station. Other journalists Bwambale Baker and Mumbere Denis escaped the arrest.

The journalists were covering a meeting organized by the People Power Movement which is headed by Honorable Robert Kyagulanyi a.ka Bobi Wine. This particular meeting in Kasese was organized by Honorable Francis Zaake, Member of Parliament for Mityana Municipality.

“I received a call from a news source that there was a meeting going to take place at Bambucha Safaris organized by Honorable Francis Zaake. I proceeded to the venue at about noon and met fellow journalists Bwambale Baker and Mumbere Denis. As people were giving their expectations, police rounded off the place and begun arresting them. We were twelve (12) people in total including Honorable Zaake who were arrested” Kaguta told HRNJ-Uganda adding that they were taken to Kasese Central Police Station where they were detained for about five (5) hours and released without charges but were rather cautioned.

Speaking to HRNJ-Uganda, Bwambale Baker of Light FM in Kasese said, “we were at Bambucha Safaris, as people were giving their expectations, police surrounded the place. Their commander said, this operation is only for two minutes, please arrest them. I took off and ran to the reception where I picked a bottle of beer and started drinking. As they were arresting others, they left me and that’s how I survived.”

Mumbere Denis also told HRNJ-Uganda that he managed to escape the arrest because he ran away.

When the Regional Police Spokesperson of Rwenzori East Vincent Twesige was contacted by HRNJ-Uganda he said, “The journalist was released yesterday alongside eleven other people. They were not charged but cautioned.” The spokesperson also appealed to journalists to always be objective while conducting their work.

Last week, on 26th September 2019 police arrested Mumbere Denis, a Messiah FM journalist in Kasese for covering a meeting organized by the Forum for Democratic Change, (FDC), an opposition party in Uganda. He was detained for one night at Katwe Police Division and released on bond on charges of covering an unlawful assembly.

On the same day, Hamza Kitakule, a Radio One Correspondent in Hoima district was arrested and detained for over 10 hours during the Hoima by elections. He was released on bond on charges of criminal trespass. Hamza had gone to the presidential lodge in Hoima to verify information about a one Karangwa who was distributing pre ticked ballot papers. It is alleged that Karangwa was rescued by the army from an angry mob that wanted to lynch him. He was rushed to the presidential lodge.

“The operating environment for the media has become volatile especially as we approach the 2021 elections. We appeal to security agencies to be mindful of the role played the media as the eyes and ears of the public. Covering people with dissenting views should not be used to criminalize journalists,” Remarked Robert Ssempala the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director.

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