Police on Wednesday night arrested a group of journalists who were doing an investigative story on the sale of government drugs by its own officials.
Kampala Metropolitan Area Police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango confirmed the arrest of Godfrey Badebye, Shafiq Kisame and Rashid Kaweesa, all working for BBC in Makindye last night while buying government drugs illegally.
“They were arrested from Makindye where they were meeting a person who was supposed to sell them the said drug. Upon arrest and interrogation, they revealed that some of the drugs they had bought were hidden at Solomon Sserwanja’s home in Mukono district, ” Onyango told journalists on Thursday.
He said that on raiding Sserwanja’s home, they didn’t find him but arrested his wife Vivian Sserwanja and that on searching their house, boxes of drugs were recovered.
Onyango told journalists that detectives found 14 boxes of Lamefantine tablets, vaccines for Hepatitis B and other drugs labeled with government seals.
However, this website understands that the journalists were carrying out an investigation into the sale of government drugs by its own officials.
It has also been established that on the fateful night, the journalists had gone to approach one of the sellers of the drugs suspected to be an agent to some government official before police swung into action to arrest the members of the fourth estate.
The drugs bought were to be used as a confirmation and evidence that some government officials are involved in the sale of government drugs which is illegal.
Next Media Services confirmed that NBS Television in partnership with BBC Africa were working on an investigation into the alleged sale of government drugs on the black market.
“The main purpose of the investigation was to cast a spotlight on how alleged corruption is aiding the sale of government drugs and the arrests come at the conclusion stage of the three- week investigation,” Next Media Services said in a statement.
However, when asked to comment on the issue, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson claimed police didn’t know that the people they were arresting were journalists.
“By then we didn’t know that they were journalists but on recording their statements after arrest, they revealed their particulars. They should have informed us before carrying out the investigation so we could give them backup,”Onyango claimed.
Asked whether security knew that the journalists were carrying out an investigation into the sale of government drugs by bigwigs in government, the police mouthpiece said their investigations will put them in the know of what was taking place.
Journalists put Onyango to task to explain whether the person who was selling drugs to journalists was arrested and his identity, but the police mouthpiece said it was a security matter and he could not divulge more details.
“We are doing our job. Government has many contacts and you never know they landed onto one.”
He said the journalists will be charged with illegal possession of classified drugs contrary to section 27(2) of the National Drug Act 2006.
Journalist body, the Human Rights Network for Journalists(HRNJ) condemned the police action saying it was uncalled for but rather meant to intimidate journalists.
“The reasons they are giving for the arrest are weak. Journalists cant alert them(police) for fear of divulging information,” HRNJ national coordinator Robert Ssempala said.
He revealed there is a well calculated move by government officials to intimidate journalists but noted they will not be derailed from their goal of exposing the rot caused by some government officials.
“We think this arrest is one of the moves to threaten journalists,”Ssempala said.
President Museveni has always warned against government officials involved in corruption tendencies including sale of drugs from government hospitals.
He recently announced that he had put in place a State House anti -corruption unit headed by Lt.Col. Edith Nakalema to help him check on corruption especially among government officials and the unit’s efforts are always complemented by the media.