Kikuube, 22nd October 2020; Gad Asaba, a freelance journalist with Kazi-Nzema, an online News Agency was on Thursday afternoon arrested by men clad in the Uganda Peoples Defense Force( UPDF) uniform while covering the felling of trees at Bugoma Forest Reserve in Kikuube district, Mid-Western Uganda.
Agaba alongside three other journalists to wit; Andrew Kaahwa of Spice FM, Ambrose Nuwagaba Katoto (TV West) and Godfrey Muhumuza( BBS TV) were covering a story of a banana plantation neighbouring Bugoma Central Forest Reserve that was destroyed in the process of cutting down trees.
Nuwagaba told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that they received information that about two hundred workers had been taken to Bugoma Central Forest Reserve to cut down trees.
Upon receiving the information, they proceeded to the Chairpersons Desire Mulenzi and Tuongyeriwe of Nyairongo and Rwembawo villages respectively where the forest is situated. The two accompanied them to the forest.
“While covering the banana plantation neighboring the forest that was destroyed, we saw two army officers dressed in the UPDF uniform moving towards our direction. One of them said ‘kuja hapa’ but we decided to run away. We heard another ordering shoot, but fortunately we were not shot,” Nuwagaba told HRNJ-Uganda during an interview.
They ran towards their vehicle and realized that one of their colleagues, Gad Asaba alongside the chairperson of Rwembawo village had been arrested.
Agaba was however released after about five hours of being held by the army officers.
When the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Kikuube District, Tabaro Richard was contacted, he told HRNJ-Uganda that the journalist had been released unconditionally. Adding that he was mistaken to be an illegal logger.
About twenty two (22) square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve were leased to Hoima Sugar Limited by the Bunyoro Kingdom. However, after the Environmental Impact Assessment by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) which is being contested in court, Nine square miles were given for sugar cane plantation. Other parts of the land are for replanting of trees.
The leasing of land to Hoima Sugar Limited has however attracted resistance from the environment activists including among others the Water and Environment Network Uganda.
On 15th September 2020, Venex Watebawa and Joshua Mutale both journalists and working with Water and Environment Media Network ( WEMNET) Uganda were arrested and detained at Hoima Central Police Station for two nights and were released on bond on 17th September 2020 on charges of inciting violence to cause unlawful demonstration over reporting about the forest.