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CPJ raps Uganda as journalist charged with illegal assembly, held in prison

Ugandan singer-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (C) is escorted by a police officer as he is arrested on charges of unlawful assembly before starting his first public meeting ahead of presidential election next year on January 6, 2020, in Kasangati town, suburb of Kampala. - Wine, a popular figure among young Ugandans, announced last year he would challenge the incumbent President in the 2021 elections, and on January 6 was scheduled to begin a week-long series of consultations ahead of the vote. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

News Reporter

NAIROBI — The Committee to Protect Journalists this week called on Uganda to drop all charges and to immediately release freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, Moses Bwayo, return his equipment undamaged and allow him to continue his work without intimidation.

Bwayo was initially arrested in the capital Kampala on February 24 while filming a documentary commissioned by a U.K.-based company, Southern Films, about the opposition politician and popular musician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, and was released on February 26 on police bond, according to multiple statements by the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda and a statement from the local press rights group the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda posted on social media. Police also confiscated his equipment, according to those same sources. Today he appeared in court, charged with illegal assembly alongside eight other people, and was placed in custody in Luzira Prison after both the state prosecutor and the magistrate said they needed more time to respond to his bail application, his lawyer Caleb Alaka told CPJ via messaging app. He is due back in court on Friday.

“Freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker Moses Bwayo should never have been arrested in the first place, and the fact that he is now spending more time behind bars on dubious charges exposes how far Ugandan authorities are willing to go to prevent coverage of the opposition, particularly of Bobi Wine,” said CPJ sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo. “Ugandan authorities should immediately drop all charges against Bwayo and allow him to complete the documentary without further interference.”

Over the past two years, CPJ has documented numerous incidents in which security personnel and government officials have harassed, intimidated and arrested journalists covering the opposition, and Bobi Wine in particular.

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