Police arrested journalists on Friday. The journalists were taken into custody as they attempted to cover opposition defiance protests downtown Kampala.
Journalists Herbert Ziwa and his cameraman Peter Sserwanga were downtown Kikuubo covering an opposition defiance protest. This was after Minister Jim Muhwezi issued a statement of arrest and close on all media houses covering any opposition political led protests countrywide.
Police on orders detained both journalists to Central Police Station Kampala. The Kampala Serena based Nation Media Group (NTV) journalists said they were roughed up, beaten and put on the police patrol pickups to CPS Kampala. They were freed before dawn uncharged.
The government through Minister for Information and National Guidance Jim Muhwezi on Thursday banned and threatened to revoke any media outlet that dares to cover live protests planned by opposition groups.
Addressing what he called an extra ordinally press conference Muhwezi, a retired major-general in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces said: “All live broadcast of defiance activities should stop. Any media house that continues to cover them risks having their license revoked,”.
The decision to block the protests, dubbed “Defiance Campaigns”, was made by the cabinet to stop opposition leader Kizza Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change candidate in the recent presidential election ahead of President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony on May 12.
“These were not just mere police officers but rather flying squad operatives, they released me with all my phones and camera destroyed by them,” Peter told this website. “They separated me from Herbert during these hours”. He said the men scanned and downloaded all his electronic devices before letting him go.
The United States Embassy in Kampala condemned the move by the government to ban the live broadcast of opposition activities under the defiance campaign by all media. They urged Uganda to allow journalists to do their jobs without interference.
The US embassy through their official twitter handle tweeted: “The government of Uganda’s decision to ban media coverage of FDC activities is truly disappointing just days after World Press Freedom Day. Such restrictions violate not just the rights of journalists, but the rights of citizens to information. Citizens of Uganda should be able to decide for themselves what information to use to make informed choices about their country.”
“Being a journalist is not a crime. It is shameful that our journalists have been detained for nothing more than doing their jobs,” said NTV Managing Director Aggie Konde. “It’s the job of the journalist to cover and inform the public on what’s going on in the country, and that is all that they were doing.”
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