Three journalists working with the British Broadcasting Corporation in Uganda were arrested this week on charges of illegal possession of drugs. Fortunately the journalists, who were working on a project investigating government corruption, have not only found a government ally in spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, their arrest also caught the attention of human rights advocates on social media. The BBC has also publicized its intent to work with the “relevant authorities.”
Patrick Onyango, Uganda’s police spokesman, said on Thursday five suspects had been detained overnight.
They included two Ugandans and one Kenyan working for the British broadcaster, as well as the wife of a local journalist from NBS Television who was working with them, and a driver.
Fourteen boxes of tablets had been seized, along with other vaccines.
Gov’t defends journalists
The country’s government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, however came to the defence of the journalists on Thursday, saying the the reporters had been helping to expose corruption.
Opondo said the journalists had been cooperating with the State House Health Monitoring Unit to investigate the theft and sale of Ugandan government drugs in neighbouring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I am yet to find out the logic why police arrested these journalists, who in my view were helping government to unearth the rot which is in the system,” said Opondo.
Opondo said that police had told him the journalists were “intending to embarrass the government”. He said such a reason for their arrest would be “absurd.”
“They should be released unconditionally.”
The BBC said it was in contact with the authorities over the case.
Uganda’s decrepit healthcare system is riddled with corruption and doctors and nurses frequently complain about shortages of basic supplies like gloves, medicines and vaccines.