March 1, 2016 - Updated on March 8, 2016

Post-election wave of arbitrary arrests of journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned to learn that at least 14 journalists were briefly arrested and manhandled by the police in the course of their reporting in the past few days, in the wake of the 18 February general election.

Their only crime was trying to cover the opposition and its defeated presidential candidate Kizza Besigye. Six journalists were arrested for “security reasons” outside Besigye’s home on 27 February and were placed in a police van before being released.

All six – Abubaker Muhamed Zirabamuzaale, Abubaker Lubowa and Mukiibi Eriasa Sserunjogi of the Daily Monitor, Nicholas Bumulanzeeki of the Observer, Mugerwa Gerald of Delta TV and Suhair Boss Mugabi of NTV – said they were beaten while in the van.

Six other journalists – Elijah Turyagumanawe and Dean Saava Lubowa of NBS TV, Kiwanuka Stephen and Nakiwala Faridah of BBS TV, Sendegeya Mohammed of CBS TV and Mukose Arnold of Salt Radio – were briefly arrested yesterday near the home of Besigye and were accused of “inciting violence.”

Although under house arrest, Besigye had been planning to attend a meeting of his party, the Forum for Democratic Change, at the time.

Two other reporters, Abubaker Muwonge, the correspondent of China Central Television (CCTV), and Francis Ociti of the Red Pepper tabloid newspaper, were also arrested yesterday while covering a protest outside the presidential palace in Kampala by opposition demonstrators, who released pigs wearing the T-shirts of the ruling National Resistance Movement. Muwonge and Ociti were charged with “criminal trespass.”

“The media continue to the targets of unacceptable harassment that is a direct continuation of the systematic intimidation seen during the election campaign,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We call on the authorities to give their men clear orders to respect the work of journalists and stop being the tools of government censorship.”

RSF previously condemned a pepper spray attack on photo-journalist Isaac Kasamani on 22 February and many violations of freedom of information in the run-up to the elections.

Uganda is ranked 97th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.