Journalist arrested following story on Ugandan minister

May 25, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Robert Ssewankambo

Alex Bukhumune, a journalist for the Ugandan newspaper Red Pepper, was last week arrested and detained for investigating a story involving the State Minister for Energy, Ronald James Du’janga.

Bukhumune was first arrested on 15th May by Kabalagala police officers and charged with ‘criminal defamation’ for investigating a land dispute-related story involving Du’janga. The journalist 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 saloon car and whisked him away to Kabalagala police station, where he was released on bond and charges of threatening violence six hours later.

The Red Pepper journalist stated 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 up, 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 got fired.” Bukhumune went om to confirm.

The lawyer Joseph Luzige stated: “Hon. Du’janga forwarded 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.”

The Officer in Charge of Criminal investigations at Kabalagala Police, Nusurah Kemigisha told press 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” he stated.

Bukhumune was due to report back to police on May 21st but was called to report two days earlier at which time his bond was revoked and he was detained under unclear circumstances. Du’janga told press that he had signed a statement at the police station, adding that  “How the police handle my matter is up to them.”

Alex Bukhumune has been ordered to report to the Police’s compliance unit in Ntinda for further interrogation.

 

 

 

 

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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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