The police on Monday arrested six journalists and briefly detained them at Wandegeya Police Station accusing them of entering Makerere University to cover a story about foreign students who remained stranded at the university since March when President Museveni declared a shutdown due to Covid-19.
The students, unable to travel back to their home countries remained locked down at the university but under deplorable conditions.
On Monday, the students’ leaders invited journalists to highlight the foreign students’ plight but before the press conference could get started, the police moved in and arrested the journalists.
The journalists are Emmanuel Sanya Mango, Grace Namubiru, and Godwin Kaiza all of Record TV, Joseph Muyingo of Delta TV, Jaliat Namuwaya of Bukedde TV and Edward Muhumuza of NTV.
“We had gone to interview the students only to be arrested by the Officer in Charge of Makerere University Police Post and later taken to Wandegeya Police Station. Our phones were confiscated before we were whisked away to Wandegeya. Police station,” Sanya said.
The Wandegeya Division Police Commander(DPC) Samuel Odong told Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), a journalist rights NGO that the police intercepted the journalists because they entered the university without the knowledge of the university administration.
“I got information from my OC who had intercepted them as they were covering continuing students who organized a press conference at the university without the knowledge of the administration,” Odong said.
He said that the police cautioned the journalists and asked them to always inform the police authorities when covering such cases.
The journalists who were arrested at about noon were released from the police after about two hours without any charges. Their phones were returned but never allowed to follow up on the story at the University.
HRNJ-Uganda has documented cases of over 20 Journalists who have been attacked in the line of duty since the lockdown imposed by the government as a strategy to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the permission given to journalists to continue working as part of the essential service providers.
“It’s sad that the police went on to arrest this group of journalists in the line of duty with the sole aim of foiling their coverage to highlight the plight of the students. This is not the first time of such actions at the University at the hands of the police. The police must stop interfering with the media covering news from the University. HRNJ-UGANDA will support the victimized journalists to legally take on the implicated security officers,” said the HRNJ-UGANDA Executive Director, Robert Ssempala