Government has admitted it made a mistake arresting three BBC journalists who were investigating the sale of government drugs by some of its officials.
Police on Wednesday night arrested Godfrey Badebye, Shafiq Kisame and Rashid Kaweesa, all working for BBC and Vivian Nakalika, wife to NBS investigative journalist Solomon Sserwanja who was also on their wanted list.
“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,” Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango told journalists on Thursday.
However, only few hours after saying the journalists had indeed been involved in buying of government drugs on the black market, Police changed the statements to say that it was wrong for the journalists to be arrested.
“They were initially suspects but they turned out to be journalists on duty. It is clear their motive was to carry out an investigation on how easy it is to buy and sell government drugs,” Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga told journalists.
The Police spokesperson admitted that it was a mistake for the journalists who were doing their job of exposing government officials involved in the sale of government drugs to be arrested by a joint team of security operatives including police and the Internal Security Organisation.
“We highly commend the media for their efforts in fighting corruption and we encourage such to continue.”
Uncoordinated troop movement
The move by security agencies to arrest the journalists indicated there was an uncoordinated troop movement among various government agencies.
In the first place, NBS Television together with BBC were working with the State House Health Monitoring Unit in a bid to help bust the cartel behind the sale of government drugs and this was confirmed by the Senior Press Secretary to H.E President Museveni, Don Wanyama.
“In principle, the State House Health Monitoring Unit had agreed to work with the journalists, although it raised a few procedural and ethical issues that it wanted the journalists to address,”Wanyama posted on his facebook page.
The arrest clearly indicated that there was no coordination and communication between security agencies and the State House Health Monitoring Unit.
In the Friday press briefing, the Police spokesperson indicated that the journalists had recorded statements before release on bond adding that the information they gave would be used by a taskforce put in place to help combat sale of government drugs.
The police however accused journalists of bypassing the health ministry which should have been involved in the investigation saying it was wrong and warranted their arrest.
Enanga noted that they would be seeking for guidance from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for the next course of action to the journalists who he had earlier said are no longer suspects in the case of illegal possession of classified drugs.
When asked why security agencies never verified the information they got about the alleged buying of government drugs that led to arrest of journalists, Enanga did not have a straight answer to the question.
Asked to comment on the person who was selling the government drugs to the arrested journalists, the police spokesperson said the investigation is still ongoing.
“We are building on the evidence got through statements from them(journalists) and it is part of our investigations.”
This however contradicted with the statement made earlier by the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango who said the person selling drugs to journalists was their(security) contact.