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International media slam Ugandan authorities on harassing journalists

NBS Television says Solomon Sserwanjja was working on a joint investigative report with the team from the BBC, a media partner with NBS Television. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda (FCAU) an umbrella organisation of journalists working in Uganda for foreign and international news-media has Thursday, February 7 warned security agencies against violation of journalists’ rights.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, FCAU said that they are concerned with the overnight detention of journalists in Kampala in course of their work.

“FCAU calls for the immediate release of all three journalists, Vivian [Sserwanjja] who is the spokesperson of Uganda ministry of health,” FCUA wrote warning Ugandan authorities of dangers of criminalizing journalism which is a vital part of a free society.

The detained journalists are Godfrey Badebye, Kasim Muhammad and Rashid Kaweesa, their driver Shafiq was also at the Central Police Station in capital Kampala

This comes as Uganda Police are continuing their search for NBS Television’s senior investigative reporter and anchor, Solomon Sserwanjja, hours after his wife Vivian Naliika was arrested alongside two BBC Africa journalists, a cameraman, and a driver.

“FCAU holds Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) responsible for the safety of journalists in their custody,” the media body warned.

In a brief statement issued on social media, NBS Television says Sserwanjja was working on a joint investigative report with the team from the BBC, a media partner with NBS Television.

NBS it partnership with BCC Africa commissioned an investigation into the alleged sale of Ugandan government drugs on the market,” the station wrote in a statement adding that “ the main purpose of the investigation was to cast a spotlight on how alleged corruption is aiding the sale of government drugs.”

NBS says the arrests came at the conclusion stage of the three- week investigation.

Harassment of journalists is on the rise in Uganda, and freedom of speech is under threat, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.

In August last year, various media houses including NTV and NBS televisions reported that their journalists went missing following the chaos and gunfire that rocked Arua town.

Some of these were reporting live about the death of MP Robert Kyagulanyi’s driver who was shot dead.

Some of the journalists that went missing include, NTV’s Herbert Zziwa and cameraman Ronnie Muwanga but the duo was released from Gulu Central Police Station on bond after being charged with incitement of violence and malicious damage of property.

Journalists, Zziwa Herbert and Ronald Muwanga at Gulu Police Station where they were allegedly charged with inciting violence and malicious damage to property (PML Daily PHOTO)

Others include John Kibalizi for NBS television and several others.

On August 31, security operatives attacked and battered Joshua Mujunga, a video journalist at NBS Television for covering a riot in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.

On most of these and many other occasions that have gone unreported by the media, police have walked away with impunity.

Various reports by human rights activists have for many years ranked Police as the number one violator of human rights.

In September last year, Ugandan authorities blocked registration of foreign journalists seeking to work in Uganda the access to accreditation documents, a requirement for them to operate in the country.

According to a statement issued by FCAU, over ten journalists wishing to report in Uganda were not given accreditation despite fulfilling the requirements and following the procedures.

According to the association, although the process was quick and straightforward in the past, applicants have since been tossed by the media council.

The association noted this happened at a time when the rights of the media in Uganda are being violated.

“FCAU is also concerned that this action comes at a time when journalists in Uganda are experiencing a tougher working environment following the arrest of an opposition politician [Bobi Wine] last month,” FCAU noted.

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