The Uganda Police have arrested and detained a journalist, Henry Wasswa Lumanyika, on charges of criminal trespass, after allegedly lodging with and interviewing Afghan evacuees.
Wasswa, a senior correspondent with Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA), the German Press Agency, has been detained at Entebbe police station.
He was arrested on Thursday by security officers at the Imperial Resort Beach hotel, which is home to 51 Afghan evacuees who arrived in Uganda on Wednesday.
The refugees are part of a group fleeing Afghanistan as the United States rushes to airlift thousands of people out of the country after the Taliban took Kabul.
Wasswa, 60, reportedly booked and checked into the hotel a day before the refugees arrived and paid $167 for his accommodation.
At the time he checked into the hotel, there was no indication that the hotel was out of bounds for Ugandan nationals or any other visitors, even though its security had been heightened.
However, Wasswa’s troubles began after he interviewed refugees for news articles and was questioned by security officers with the ministry of internal affairs.
Wasswa told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-UGANDA) that he was booked at the hotel after paying $167 and spent one night at the hotel.
“There was no indication that the hotel was out of bounds much as there was a heavy security presence,” said Waswa.
“We find it strange that a journalist is charged and kept in cells over a charge of criminal trespass where the hotel duly booked him in. At the time of his arrest by two plain-clothed security personnel, Waswa had not published any news story. So we call upon the police for his release and return of his journalist gadgets which were confiscated. We also urge the security to respect his rights as a journalist.” HRNJ said in a statement.
The General Secretary of the Entebbe Journalists Association, Diana Kibuuka, said there was no information barring journalists from covering refugees at the hotel.
If there are any restrictions, the government should inform the media fraternity.
Authorities warned journalists on Wednesday that they should be very careful about reporting on Afghans in Uganda. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cautioned Ugandans against taking and publishing pictures of the Afghan refugees hosted in the country.
State Minister for Regional Cooperation John Mulimba said that any such action may be tantamount to a security threat.