Uganda Police Thursday said they would charge a journalist with illegal assembly after arresting him on Monday capturing a documentary of a song being composed by presidential hopeful Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.
Mr Moses Bwayo, who was under a contract with a UK-based production company, Southern Films, was arrested on Monday evening in Nsambya, a Kampala suburb, while documenting Bobi Wine who was recording a music video.
Mr Bwayo was taken to the nearby Kabalagala Police Station, where he was detained until yesterday when he was released on a police bond. The video cameras he was using were also impounded by police.
He was ordered to return to the police station on March 4. Police Speaking to this publication yesterday, Mr Patrick Onyango, the police spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan area, confirmed the arrest of the journalist and 10 others.
Mr Onyango said the journalist and his group were shooting a music video in the middle of the road, a move he said caused heavy traffic jam.
“They were arrested because of shooting a music video around Nsambya. They were inconveniencing the residents as they moved in the middle of the road without police guidance or clearance. The area DPC called them and because they were big in number, some fled but the police managed to arrest 10 of them,” Mr Onyango said in a telephone interview last evening.
“But we have given them bond and their arrest has nothing to do with Bobi Wine,” he added. The arrest of the journalist did not go down well with fellow journalists, mainly those working for foreign media houses.
Through their professional body, Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda (FCAU), they issued a statement yesterday demanding the release of their colleague.
They also called upon government to stop criminalising reporting on Opposition political activities or groups. “The FCAU calls for the immediate release of journalist Moses Bwayo, who was arrested in Kampala on Monday evening as he was documenting Bobi Wine record a music video,” a statement released by FCAU reads in part.
“Independent journalism is a vital part of a free society and Ugandan authorities must not criminalise reporting on Opposition political groups,” the statement added.
Equally, Mr Robert Sempala, the national coordinator of the Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists, condemned Mr Bwayo’s arrest.
“This is persecution, a journalist should be free to work, especially on this calibre of work that is not illegal. We know they will not successfully prosecute him but his arrest is intended to create fear among journalists to stop working with the dissenting voices such as Bobi Wine,” Mr Sempala said yesterday shortly after Mr Bwayo’s release.
Bobi response However, Bobi Wine yesterday at about 1pm, posted on his Facebook wall, admitting to have been working on a music project with the journalist and others.
“Meanwhile, as we still mourn our comrade #RitahNabukenya who was murdered by police yesterday, 10 of our friends with whom we have been working on a music project were rounded up by police including the video directors and cameramen.
“They were taken to Kabalagala Police Station and charged with holding an unlawful assembly!
“This regime is so scared of the people that it’s even scared of its own shadow. While this should make us sad, we’re encouraged that such signs always spell the end of every brutal dictatorship. Stay strong comrades, freedom is in sight,” Bobi Wine posted.