Senegal: CPJ urges Uganda to drop all charges against journalist

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - Ugandan authorities should immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Kenya Television Network (KTN) reporter and anchor, Joy Doreen Biira, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Thursday.

In a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, CPJ disclosed that Ugandan Police detained Biira on 27 November after she reported on a deadly battle between police and a traditional monarch's royal guard.

She was charged with "abetting terrorism" and was released the following day pending her trial.

"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," remarked Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa Program coordinator.

"Journalism is not terrorism. The state's charges against Joy Doreen Biira should be dropped without delay."

According to the statement, Biira's lawyer, Nicholas Opiya, revealed that police accused the journalist of circulating graphic photos of the aftermath of a battle between security forces and the royal guard of the king of the Rwenzururu Kingdom, a traditional monarch in the Rwenzori region of western Uganda, to a widely subscribed WhatsApp group.

About 62 people, including 16 policemen, were said to have been killed in the gun battle.

CPJ said Biira, who is Ugandan but works in Kenya, had been in the area for a traditional wedding ceremony.  

She was said to have posted video of the king's palace burning to Instagram and wrote about the event on Facebook.

CPJ said the police arrested her alongside four other people, including her husband, who also published images of the palace burning.

"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.

"I am sure they will clear our names of the grave and ridiculous charges. My social media postings are public and do not constitute a violation of any law. As a professional and practicing journalist, I believe in the ethics of my profession. In this instant, I believe I held it to the highest possible standard."

Meanwhile, CPJ pointed out that Biira was allowed to return to Kenya on Wednesday and her trial is expected to begin on 8 December.

Under Uganda's 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act, the charge of "abetting terrorism" carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 1Dec2016

01 december 2016 15:34:41

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