9 November 2010

Uganda: Journalists Arrested Over Extortation

Kampala — TWO journalists from the Daily Monitor and Kabozi Kubiiri Radio, were arrested on Monday for allegeding extorting sh1.5m from the National Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) boss Apollo Muheirwe.

Yasser Kalyango a sports journalist with the Daily Monitor and Henry Katamba Mutyaba a sports presenter of Akabozi Kubbiri a sister radio to Radio One, were paraded before MPs on Commissions, Statutory and State Enterprises yesterday.

The committee chairperson Reagan Okumu said the journalists were paraded before the committee because they had been using names of committee members to extort money from Muhairwe.

Muhairwe, who also attended the same meeting, told the committee that the sports journalists allegedly demanded sh40m on behalf of the committee and Makindye East MP Micheal Mabikke, to clear him of allegation of feaces into water meant for human consumption.

Late last month, Mabikke submitted to the committee a document containing information from a whistleblower within NWSC alleging that the water which is consumed by the public, contains feaces and that Muhairwe had allegedly embezzled huge sums of money meant for Ggaba water project.

The arrest of the journalists followed a long week planning involving the Okumu, Muhairwe, and Parliamentary CIDs.

This was after Muhairwa complained to Okumu that some committee members were using the allegations to extort money from him, through journalists.

"Our image and the image of Parliament have been tarnished over a long time for personal gains. This is one of the cases. When the NWSC MD complained to me, I advised him to arrange meetings with the journalists, and I assigned one of our committe CIDs to handle the matter." Okumu said.

Muhairwe told the committee that he was approached by a journalist identified as Kaweesa a few days back after a malicious story 'Muhairwe conned government sh4b'published by the Weekly Mail.

The journalist claimed that he had been sent by Mabikke's personal assistant, one Sserunjjongi to collect sh40m.

Muhairwe said the journalist claimed that Mabikke wanted the money to give release a list of NWSC staff who made the allegations against him. When he expressed interest, Kaweesa, then introduced Katamba, who demanded for sh6m to connect Muhairwe to the 'real person' who knows Mabikke.

It's at this point that Katamba introduced Kalyango of Monitor to Muhairwe. Kalyango claimed to be the editor of the Weekly Mail, Muhairwe said. He assured Muhairwe that if 'he behaves well' there will be no more malicious publication about him.

After this point, the deal seemed sealed, and Muhairwe gave Katamba sh1m and sh0.5m to Kalyango as a start off.

"Throughout the meetings I held with them, I recorded the proceedings and I realized that Katamba was panicking. On Monday, we photo copied all the money which was given to them, and after receiving the money, they were arrested at the exit of NWSC offices," Muhairwe added.

Kaweesa, Muhairwe said is on the run. The managing editor of the Daily Monitor, Daniel Kalinaki said Kalyango has worked as a freelance with the newspaper for a long time, adding that they will carry out in-house inquiry.

"Although he was not acting for or on behalf of Monitor Publications Ltd., these actions, if true, constitute criminal and unethical behaviour. They contradict our well publicised ethical guidelines which forbid our reporters and editors from soliciting or receiving inducements of any kind to run or not to run stories in the newspaper," Kalinaki wrote in an email to New Vision.

Jeff Mulinde Kiwanuka an administrator at Akabozi Kubbiri, declined to comment on the matter on grounds that he is yet to talk to the lawyer handling the case.

This brings the number of journalists arrested over alleged extortion of money to four. On Monday, Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson Ibin Senkumbi said three people including two journalists were arrested on Friday for alleged attempts to extort sh50m from Works Permanent secretary Charles Muganzi.

The journalists include a Daily Monitor scribe, a Kampala lawyer and one scribe who claimed to work for New Vision.

They allegedly demanded the money to kill a story incriminating Muganzi in relation to Chogm funds.

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