Uganda: TV journalist detained after filming MP's arrest

Regulation & Policy

Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS) TV journalist Williams Ntege was arrested by anti-riot police on 2 May after he was caught filming the arrest of Kampala female Member of Parliament (MP) Nabirah Ssempala. Ssempala was arrested for walking to work after she claimed her vehicle had run out of fuel.

Ssempala's arrest comes amid a crackdown by security forces on opposition politicians and their supporters who have been protesting spiraling food and fuel prices by walking to work.

Two plainclothes but armed police officers arrested Ntege after he refused to vacate the scene of Ssempala's arrest. "I was manhandled by police before the arrest (. . .) they forcefully took my camera. They operated it inside Kabalagala police station to erase the footage. After a few minutes, they came and searched me. They got another tape and took it just to destroy the evidence I had captured," Ntege said.

The journalist called for help from Uganda Police Force (UPF) deputy spokesperson Vincent Ssekatte, who accused him of supporting the opposition. Ntege said Ssekatte advised him to surrender all the tapes he had at the scene.

Ntege says that during his arrest, one armed, plainclothes officer threatened to shoot him on accusations that he was inciting violence. HRNJ-Uganda tried to reach Ssekatte to confirm the story but they were unsuccessful.

"It's a pity that the police, who are supposed to protect journalists, continue to lead the list of tormentors. We wonder why police and other security agencies have taken journalists' rights hostage," said HRNJ-Uganda board Chairman Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda calls on the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to organise a mission to Uganda as a way of assessing Uganda's compliance with the protection and promotion of media freedom.