More Ugandan Journalists arrested in alleged extortion

Tuesday November 9 2010

By Sheila Naturinda

The parliamentary police are holding two Ugandan journalists, including a Daily Monitor scribe, over allegations that they tried to extort Shs40 million from Dr William T. Muhairwe, the managing director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC).

The second suspect identified himself as an employee of Akaboozi radio, a sister station of Radio One. The suspects were on Tuesday paraded before the parliamentary oversight committee on Commissions and State Enterprises, chaired by Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu.

"They used our committee name and said we would treat the MD ( Dr Muhairwe) very well when he appears before us," Mr Okumu said. "They even said Gen David Tinyefuza, the coordinator of Military Intelligence, was annoyed with Dr Muhairwe".

Dr Muhairwe told the committee he had sleepless nights over the numerous calls he received from the suspects until he alerted Parliament, which eventually sent in their detectives.

"After we presented our defence on many queries before the committee, I begun receiving delegation after delegation from the media fraternity, claiming the MPs had sent them," Dr Muhairwe said.

After the arrests by Parliament police, the Akaboozi radio journalist sent Dr Muhairwe an SMS message that read: "For all I have done for you, you pay me like this...okay, thank you, we shall meet."


Another suspect who escaped arrest sent Dr Muhairwe an SMS, reading: "May God be with you. Am loosing my job because of you. Thanks."

Dr Muhairwe said his life could be in danger over the arrests. He said the journalists used Makindye East MP Michael Mabbike's name in their mission.

Last month, Mr Mabikke tabled allegations, which he claimed were from a whistleblower, implicating the water boss over several misconduct, including misuse of money meant for the Ggaba Water Project. NWSWC was also accused of supplying water contaminated with seweage.

"I didn't believe them (suspects) when they said Mabikke has sent them," Dr Muhairwe said.

Dr Muhairwe said when police was called in, they stationed a recorder in his office, photocopied all the notes he was giving the journalists and then arrested the two as they walked out from his office with money in envelopes.

"The Monitor journalist told me he was the editor of Weekly Mail and he would stop any more stories brought by Mr Mabikke to tarnish my name. He said he had already stopped two stories," Dr Muhairwe said the Akaboozi radio journalist claimed he controls all contents that is aired on all radio stations.

Mr Daniel Kalinaki, the Daily Monitor managing editor, said although he was disappointed by the arrests, he was happy to note that the public was becoming more vigilant and more willing to expose such journalists. This comes just days after two journalists and a city lawyer were arrested in a racket that attempted to extort Shs50m from Works PS Charles Muganzi.