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Action alerts

Uganda: Journalist arrested and beaten

2009-09-17, Issue 448

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/action/58844

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International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) has received disturbing news of the arrest of journalist, filmmaker and talk show host, Kalundi Serumaga, on 11 September 2009. It is reported that he has suffered severe beatings, requiring hospital treatment. PEN urgently calls for the release of Kalundi Serumaga, who appears to be detained solely for having spoken on recent clashes in Kampala and nearby Kayunga.

International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) has received disturbing news of the arrest of journalist, filmmaker and talk show host, Kalundi Serumaga, on 11 September 2009. It is reported that he has suffered severe beatings, requiring hospital treatment. PEN urgently calls for the release of Kalundi Serumaga, who appears to be detained solely for having spoken on recent clashes in Kampala and nearby Kayunga.

Kalundi Serumaga was arrested at 11 pm as he left the the studios of WBS Television in Kampala where he had participated in a debate in which he had been critical of Ugandan President Museveni. Eyewitnesses report that he was bundled into a waiting car and taken away. Two hours later it was disclosed that he was being held in the Kampala Central Police Station. He is thought to be facing charges of sedition and inciting violence.

On 14 September, it was reported that Serumaga had been transferred to the International Hospital in Kampala to receive treatment for injuries he sustained under severe police beatings. He told reporters that he expects to stay in hospital for a least a day, but that he would be returned to police detention.

Violence broke out when the government banned the King of Buganda, one of the four tribal regions in Uganda, to the neighbouring Kayunga district. Over 20 people are said to have been killed, and 550 others, including Serumaga, have reportedly been arrested to face trial.

Serumaga is a respected writer and journalist and popular host of a daily radio talk show, "Spectrum". On 14 September the allAfrica.com website published an article by Serumaga on the disturbances entitled ‘Things fall apart - Again...' Here he discusses the background to the riots. He opens his piece: "Most people are familiar with the proverbial last straw that broke the camels' back. However, rarely does anyone get to see the actual straw, and the moment it is laid on. The final stages of the breakdown of the always troubled relationship between Buganda and Uganda's NRM-led central government, may provide just the opportunity for such a rare sighting." He describes police in Kayunga town a few days earlier "... found themselves hard pressed to contain rampaging bands of Baganda youth, who were torching kiosks, arming themselves with makeshift weapons and forcing passers-by to sing Buganda's national anthem. As shopkeepers closed their doors, the initial police response was to fire live rounds just above the rioters' heads while waiting for the arrival of the anti-riot squads, backed up by solders in armoured vehicles and club-wielding goons. As the trouble spread, a group of soldiers scaled the wall of the tower hosting the Buganda Kingdom's main radio station transmitter, and ordered it turned off." For the full article see AllAfrica News.

Three other radio stations were also closed. Reporters Without Borders reported on 13 September: "Information minister Kabakumba Matsiko announced the suspension of three privately-owned radio stations - Suubi FM, Radio Sapienta and Radio Two Akaboozi Kubiri - on 11 September for inciting riots and "criminal mobs engaged in acts of theft, violence against persons, and destruction of property." The previous evening the authorities had closed CBS, a station owned by the Kingdom of Buganda, one of Uganda's traditional kingdoms."

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ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition http://www.pambazuka.org/en/

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français http://www.pambazuka.org/fr/

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português http://www.pambazuka.org/pt/

© 2009 Fahamu - http://www.fahamu.org/