UGANDAN author and activist Norman Tumuhimbise is among nine journalists arrested for offensive communication, police said Monday, the second writer to be detained by the authorities in recent months.
Tumuhimbise, who heads a local pressure group The Alternative Movement and an online media platform Alternative Digitalk, was due to launch a book critical of President Yoweri Museveni on March 30.
Tumuhimbise and his colleagues were reportedly bundled into a van by armed security personnel on Thursday.
‘Police got a complaint the group was involved in offensive communication and promoting hate speech,’ Uganda police spokesman, Fred Enanga, told AFP.
‘They are with the police at the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka (a suburb of the capital Kampala) as investigations are continuing,’ he added, without elaborating.
The suspects’ lawyer Eron Kiiza petitioned a Kampala court for their release Monday, alleging that police had also confiscated phones, laptops, recorders and cameras from the media outlet.
The detainees include three female journalists, according to Kiiza’s petition.
News of the arrests comes just over a month after award-winning Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija fled into exile following his detention on charges of insulting President Museveni and his son.
Rukirabashaija arrived in Germany last month to seek medical treatment after allegedly having been tortured in jail in a case that had raised international concern. Both the European Union and the United States had intervened, calling for his release.
The charges against Rukirabashaija related to unflattering comments on Twitter about Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, and his powerful son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
In one post he described Kainerugaba, a general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father, as ‘obese’ and a ‘curmudgeon.’
Uganda has witnessed a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent, with journalists attacked, lawyers jailed, election monitors prosecuted and opposition leaders violently muzzled.