Journalist arrested in court by Counter Terrorism police

September 28, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Robert Ssewankambo

The Counter Terrorism Police last week arrested a journalist from a court room in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, detaining him for one and a half hours under the accusatiuon of indulging in “work that is not his,” later releasing him without charge.

Derrick Kiyonga, a court reporter with the Observer newspaper, was arrested at around 1pm as he came out of the court where he was covering the case of people suspected to have planted the twin bombs in Kampala in 2010 during the world cup final that killed more than 70 people and injured several.

“As I was coming out of the court room, a counter terrorism officer stood in front of me and said you are under arrest. He took me to a police patrol car, forced me in and drove off at a break neck speed to a place I did not know,” Kiyonga told journalists.

He said he was put in a room and ordered to remove his shoes. His phone and notebook were taken away before he was subjected to questioning. “Three men started interrogating me. They asked me what relationship I have with the suspects in court, my family background, my parents and so many other things.”

Earlier while in court Kiyonga had been summoned by a plain clothed police officer and warned over passing on chits from the suspects to their lawyers. “I got concerned and told Caleb about the warning by the security officer. I passed on the chit innocently and did not know the contents therein. Journalists usually do it because they sit between suspects and their lawyers” Kiyonga stated. Lawyer Caleb Alaka raised Kiyonga’s concerns with the trial judge, Alphose Owiny Dollo. The judge ruled that there was no problem with what the journalist had done and warned the security staff from intimidating people in court. He said the suspects have a right to consult their lawyers.

When the court session ended, Kiyonga was arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination. In the afternoon, the defence lawyer Caleb raised the matter again to the judge who said he will not continue with the trial until the journalist is released.

The Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, Onyango Patrick, told press that Kiyonga was arrested “for doing work which was not his”. Why was he doing work which is not his? Onyango asked. When asked what offence Kiyonga committed for passing on a chit from a suspect to his lawyer, Onyango said “you read law books.”

 

 

 

 

 

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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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