UGANDAN JOURNALIST ARRESTED OVER NEWS COVERAGE

September 7, 2014 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Robert Ssewankambo

The Kasangati Chief Magistrates’ court  in Kampala, Uganda has remanded a Vision Group journalist, Adrian Bwanika Bbaale, to prison until 23rd September 2014 on allegations of ‘Disobedience of lawful orders’ by a police officer. Bwanika denied the charges.

The prosecution is led by one, identified only as ‘Rachael’ alleging that Bwanika disobeyed the lawful orders of a police officer on duty, Detective Assistant Yaye Paul of the Kasangaati police in the district of Wakiso. Rachael told the court “Investigations are complete. I pray that we fix a date for (the) hearing.”

Bwanika, who works for the government owned Vision Group’s Bukedde Television, was arrested on 2nd September at the Kasangaati police station as he covered a story on the arrest of a land dealer, popularly known as Hajji, who the complainant Ocheba Apollo accused of defrauding him of his land. Hajji was released immediately after his arrest under unclear circumstances.

Bwanika told HRNJ-Uganda that he was inhumanely arrested and his video camera confiscated. “I was assigned by my News Editor to cover the story. I came together with the complainant to the police, so I covered the arrest, but was surprised when a police officer confronted me after he had spoken to the arrested suspect, whom I believe masterminded my arrest. I was brutally arrested by five police officers, my video camera confiscated and confined in a police cell with a man who maimed his brother to death a day ago. I introduced myself as a journalist but the officer said he did not care if I was a journalist,” he earlier told HRNJ-Uganda at Kasangaati police station.

The court, presided over by Magistrate Okoth Loo, granted Bwanika a cash bail of UGSHS100,000 (US$40), which he in turn failed to pay because it was too late to pay in the bank which had since closed. The HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala and journalists Bambalazaabwe and Mutebi Sulaiman stood surety for Bwanika at a non cash bond of UGSHs1,000,000(US$250) each.

“HRNJ-Uganda is dismayed by this irregular act of the police at Kasangaati police station for charging the journalist with this trumped up charge, and also delayed to present him to court until it was too late for him to pay for his cash bail. The police should desist from being influenced to arrest and charge journalists under such circumstances. HRNJ-Uganda calls on the police to protect journalists and ensure their safety in the course of work,” the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala stated.

 

 

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Robert Ssewankambo

Robert Ssewankambo is a Ugandan writer. Working currently on a freelance basis, he is a regular contributor to major newspapers in Uganda and electronic online magazines and media sources in Africa, such as the Bukedde newspaper, Hindered radio, Red Pepper, Eddobozzi newspaper and African Interest online.

For media enquiries, contact Robert at the following email address: sewankamborobert@gmail.com

 

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