Joy Doreen Biira, a Ugandan journalist working for Kenya Television Network (KTN), is facing charges of ‘abetting terrorism’ following her arrest on Sunday for reporting on a deadly battle between police and a traditional monarch’s royal guard, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said this week.
Biira had apparently circulated graphic photos of the battle’s aftermath on social networks, a gesture that angered the authorities and prompted her detention.
Her husband, who is believed to have done the same thing, was arrested alongside her. Both will face the same charges and their trial is set to open on December 8 in Kampala.
The battle, which took place in the Rwenzori region in western Uganda, has claimed 62 lives, including 16 cops, reports said.
CPJ Africa programme coordinator Angela Quintal has slammed the journalist’s arrest and urged the government of Uganda to drop Biira’s charges without delay.
“Journalism is not terrorism, “ South African-born Quintal charged from New York.
“It is bad enough that Ugandan authorities desired to censor coverage of a newsworthy event, but the use of anti-terrorism laws to intimidate a journalist is a vast overreach,” she said.
Biira, who was freed on Wednesday and allowed – for now – to return to Kenya where she is based, faces seven years in jail under Uganda’s 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act.
“We have fully cooperated with the police in their investigations and hope that in the end, they will find that all this was a mistake on their part,” Biira told CPJ, describing the terrorism charges as ‘ridiculous’.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, a dictator who has ruled this impoverished East African country with iron-fist since 1986, is believed to be a hardcore mediaphobe and homophobe.
(with the assistance of CPJ New York, additional reporting and final editing by Issa Sikiti)
Photo: Uganda journalist Joy Doreen Biira. credit: FB