The past many days have seen either media personalities or people who have gone to speak at media houses, arrested over offensive communication.
First was the group of four comedians (Julius Sserwanja, Mbabaali Maliseeri, Peter Ssaabakaaki and Gold Ki Matono Bizonto) popularly known as Bizonto, who were arrested on July 23 over promoting sectarianism after they uploaded a skit on social media.
They were later set free after Magistrate Stella Maris Odong of Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court ordered for their unconditional release. On July 27, Mr Abbey Ssewakiryanga, alias Basajja Mivule, of Baba TV, was arrested in connection with a video in which he accused the government led by President Museveni of nepotism. He was also accused of sectarianism. He was set free three days later on police bond.
On July 28, former RDC Charles Rwomushana and Kabula County Legislator James Kakooza were intercepted by police while they were leaving a show at NBS TV for not following the President’s directive on curfew. Interestingly, MP James Kakooza was not detained, but Rwomushana was detained and charged in court. He was later freed on bail.
These arrests point to a worrying trend. Ugandans should be free to express their thoughts and ideas on platforms they have access to.
The 2021 General Election is around the corner. Ugandans are, therefore, interested in knowing more about their current political leaders and those who are vying for those positions.
Debate, music and talk shows on different media, are some of the ways that artistes are able to relay and authorities to receive information. Arrests of people for expressing their views will start to look like political persecution (if it is not already), and will deter other people from putting across their ideas and thoughts.
The authorities should only hold people, including artistes, who break the law.
However, the arrests should be done in a manner that shows fairness and justice.
It should not be done just because someone is speaking against the government. We cannot have two people intercepted for breaking the directives on curfew, only for the one who is in the Opposition to be detained and the one who is in the ruling party, let to go scot-free.
We cannot have people detained for more than 48 hours without the security forces following due procedure as laid out in the law.
If the government would want us to believe we are going to have a free and fair election process, it should start acting in that direction as opposed to what it is doing now.