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After a botched attempt by the government to convince tech giants Google and Facebook block bloggers and broadcasters allied to the National Unity Platform-NUP campaigns, police have resorted to arresting them ahead of the Thursday elections.
On December 9, 2020, the government through Uganda Communications Commission-UCC wrote requesting Google Inc. to block 14 Ugandan based YouTube Channels for broadcasting messages that are likely to compromise national security and incite violence. UCC sent a similar request to Facebook.
The implicated channels included Ghetto TV, Bobi Wine 2021, KKTV, JB Muwonge 2, Namungo Media, Busesa Media Updates, Ekyooto TV, Map Mediya TV, Uganda Empya, Uganda News Updates, Uganda Yaffe, Trending Channel UG, Lumbuye Fred and TMO online.
However, the tech giants turned down request. As a result, security has now decided to target the broadcasters by arresting them during their live broadcasts. Several online pro-NUP broadcasters have been picked up in the past during the campaign rallies of the NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
The Director of Operations Uganda Police Force, Assistant Inspector General of Police-AIGP Edward Ochom recently told journalists at a press briefing that 17 of the pro- Kyagulanyi broadcasters were picked up broadcasting live while wearing press jackets.
For Ghetto Media that broadcasts as Ghetto TV, two of their broadcasters are incarcerated while another identifies as Ashraf Kasirye is still battling for his life after being hit with a rubber bullet on the head. Ronald Mugenyi, one of the remaining three Ghetto TV broadcasters, says that Government does not have the right to stop free media.
Mugenyi says despite the fact that he was not arrested, he was assaulted terribly while broadcasting live and had to run away for dear life. According to Mugenyi, he personally knows 13 broadcasters who are locked up. They include among others Geoffrey Mutalya, Kalemwa Richard, Isma Ssema, Nambooze Dorothy, Kaster, Geoffrey Mutalya, and Samma Uganda.
He says by going live they inform Ugandans abroad and in the country on the actual situation on the ground.
Another broadcaster with MAP Mediya, says that Government brought in the registration of journalists to get rid of them but they only broadcast what Government does and they will not back down despite the arrests.
The broadcaster, who declined to give his name, says they will use all ways to stay live and inform the world what is happening in the country.
AK Rapid, who broadcasts for Rapid Media Uganda says that all they do is capture Kyagulanyi and advises police to ensure that their conduct around Kyagulanyi appeals to the world instead of violence.
When asked about to comment on the arrest of the online broadcasters and their offenses , Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga just switched turned switched off his mobile number. He did not pick various calls made by our reporter to his cellphone.