Monday, February 28, 2011

HRNJ-Uganda statement; ‘Journalist’ masterminds arrest of HRNJ-Uganda programmes coordinator.

For immediate release

Soroti, 28th/Feb/2011; Security operatives in Mbale district arrested the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala in a manner that exposed a purported journalist Julius Odeke.

Ssebaggala was arrested at Joint clinic in Soroti Municipality, Eastern Uganda at 3:00pm on Saturday 27th/Feb/2011 shortly after visiting and interviewing Mr. Odeke.

HRNJ-Uganda team was in the region to assess the environment under which journalists operate and the possible support which can be extended to the victims. The team visited districts namely; Bungokho, Mbale and Soroti.

“After an earlier interview with him at the clinic, I rang Odeke to get a telephone contact of a doctor to treat a journalist who had been beaten in Mbale. So he asked me to go back to the clinic. Upon reaching there with a colleague Jennifer Loy Akurut, Odeke pretended to be talking to the doctor but instead calling the security operatives. Shortly, he came with three operatives; one of them identified himself as a police officer and two from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). He ordered them to arrest me. They ordered me to surrender my cell phone, laptop, camera and notebook”. Narrated Ssebaggala

He adds that, “All this time, Odeke was shouting on top of his voice, accusing me of interfering with his life. He at some point said he could even kill me because he was too disappointed with HRNJ-Uganda which he accused of jeopardizing his relations with the army”.

The arrest and detention inside the clinic lasted about 30minutes. They released me after deleting all the interview materials and photographs I had taken while interviewing Odeke.

“Odeke denied getting any support form HRNJ-Uganda, instead praising the Army which ordered his evacuation from Mbale hospital to Soroti. I later learnt that Odeke had a meeting with army officials a day earlier (0n 25th/Feb/2011) in Soroti town. I believe Odeke is a security plant spying on fellow journalist and the opposition politicians.” Observed Ssebaggala

Odeke claims to work for the Red Pepper publication. He was shot on 18th/Feb/2011 in a scuffle between opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Nandala Mafabi and Minister for the presidency Beatrice Wabudeya for the Budari West parliamentary seat. Mafabi won the seat.

Basing on what happened;
We believe that Mr. Odeke masterminded Mr. Ssebaggala’s arrest with whose actions had intentions to frustrate the efforts of HRNJ-Uganda in its bid to uphold journalists’ rights and freedoms.

We are therefore withdrawing any form of supports towards Mr. Odeke.
HRNJ-Uganda role in promoting human rights;

Genuine journalists are counted as human rights defenders who speak for the poor, oppressed, and the voiceless.

We defend genuine journalists to promote human dignity and human rights especially the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information all of which are inherent.

HRNJ-Uganda would like to re-echo that it has limited resources which we can’t commit to spies who have occupied space at the expense of genuine practitioners.
“The arrest of Mr. Ssebaggala is an insult and invasion to the profession. It must be fought by all stakeholders. We are very concerned about the way security agencies have occupied the operating space for true journalists hence blocking them from accessing good services.” Said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala

HRNJ-Uganda calls on the army to guarantee the safety and security of journalists in Uganda.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

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