The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda (FCAU) is calling for the immediate release of a journalist who was arrested February 24, for making a documentary about the opposition leader, Bobi Wine.
Moses Bwayo was arrested and brought before a court in Kampala, where he was charged with illegal assembly. Bwayo was under a contract with a UK-based production company, Southern Films at the time of his arrest.
“The FCAU calls for the immediate release of journalist Moses Bwayo, who was arrested in Kampala as he was documenting Bobi Wine recording 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 criminalize reporting on Opposition political groups,” the statement added.
Moses Bwayo, a #Uganda-n journalist who was arrested (later released on bond) for documenting a #BobiWine music video shoot last month has today been remanded to Luzira Prison until next Friday after being charged with “unlawful assembly” #PressFreedomUG #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/JaSFRc0x6r
— The Observer (@observerug) March 4, 2020
Patrick Onyango, the police spokesperson for the Kampala Metropolitan area, confirmed that Bwayo had been arrested along with ten others, denying that the charges had anything to do with Wine.
“They were arrested because of shooting a music video around Nsambya,” Onyango said.
“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. But we have given them bond, and their arrest has nothing to do with Bobi Wine,” he added.
The Ugandan government has been accused of attempting both targeting and intimidating the opposition. They deny the accusations, but the evidence to the contrary is mounting up.
In January alone, Police in Uganda’s Wakiso district detained four journalists who were covering a political event planned by Wine. That same month, Wine was arrested and imprisoned after law enforcement accused him of trying to stage an assembly in an open area. They said that the former singer had only been allowed to meet supporters in an enclosed area — such as a conference hall.
As news of Bwayo’s arrest circulated, Wine took to Facebook, defiant, and empathetic for his imprisoned comrades.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”