Thursday, August 4, 2011

Journalists arrested for demanding salary arrears

 Lubirizi, 3rd/August/2011; three journalists of Lubirizi district-based Grace Radio have been arrested by police for demanding for the cumulative salary arrears. The arrested include; the programmes director Owen Baruku, Wilson Asiimwe a news anchor and Daniel Katongole who doubles as a presenter and news anchor. The two other staff Deborah Kanimba (News anchor) and Sarah Ninyirikiriza (presenter) hides from view when police attempted to arrest them.  Grace radio is being run by Lions of Judah Limited owned by Pastor Nassan Ibrahim Turyamureeba.  The pastor also owns Grace cathedral Kasese and Bester Cathedral Bushenyi.
 Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that more than 12 radio staffs are neither working with appointment letters for years nor paid salaries. The staff who spoke to HRNJ-Uganda researcher said they wrote to the management on 28th/July/2011 demanding for payment of their cumulative arrears before 1st/August/2011 failure they threatened to lay down their tools. The staff in their July 28th letter also demanded for employment letters and contracts. According to the staff, the deadline passed without response and some journalists went ahead with a sit-down strike. We did not go to work on August 1st despite intimidation from management but when we had a meeting at Orange pub which is opposite the radio, the Officer in Charge of traffic, Ndekye police station one Mafabi arrested us and detained for a night said the radio programmes director Owen Baruku.The statement recorded by the radio manager Batt Bainomukama at police is  allegedly accusing the three journalists for switching off the radio and stealing station properties including a computer, internet modem, voice recorder and a stamp pad.
Our concern is that the image of police before Ugandan citizens is tainted due to actions of police men who continue to be used by economically and politically powerful people to harass Ugandans and journalists in particular. We wonder whether there was an investigation carried out before the arrest said HRNJ-Uganda programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala He said demanding for labor rights has never been a criminal case like police is  trying to portray the matter. Information reaching HRNJ-Uganda from the radio indicates that the three journalists have been sacked and new staffs have been recruited. Efforts to talk to the radio manager Batt Bainomukama were futile as all phone calls made were not picked.
 The three journalists were charged with theft and released on police bond. HRNJ-Uganda demands for withdraw of the criminal charges against the journalists unconditionally and police should assist them to recover their arrears. We call upon the Uganda Police Force Professions Standard Unit to investigate the O/C traffic Ndekye police station one Mafabi and take appropriate disciplinary action.

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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