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How Ugandan journalist managed to stay live on air after being arrested

The Ugandan journalist who was recently arrested by police while reporting live on television has shared his experience during the ordeal.

Speaking exclusively to Nairobi News on Wednesday, two days after his arrest, Elijah Turyagumanawe said he was thankful to technology “for protecting him” throughout the hour-long ordeal in the hands of law enforcers.

The NBS Television crime reporter also maintains his brief incarceration worked as a perfect decoy by the authorities to divert attention from another arrest – that of Ugandan opposition leader Kiiza Besigye – which happened almost concurrently.

Turyagumanawe was arrested alongside six of his colleagues – including two who are employees of Nation Media Group in Uganda at Besigye’s home in Kasangati, in Kampala.

They were then driven to a nearby police station and briefly detained, but later released without any charges preferred against all of them.

“There was unusually heavy deployment (by the Police) at Besigye’s home on that particular day,” Turyagumanawe narrated during the interview.

“I was in a group of journalists on the ground. We were pushed, insulted and threatened by the police. They claimed we (journalists) had gone there to incite residents.

“Then my colleagues in studio asked me to do a live link (reporting). Immediately I commenced, police arrived and ordered us to board their vehicle. I was forced to comply.”

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Thereafter, and in an incident that has attracted praise from the international community, Turyagumanawe continued to report while under arrest.

In the seven minute plus video clip that has since been viewed over 119,000 times and shared over 200 times 48 hours later, the youthful scribe continued to stammer through as he explained his ordeal amid commotion in the background from persons not visible on camera.

When the police truck finally pulled up at the police station, Turyagumanawe continued his narration even as he embarked from the van.

“I knew the camera was still rolling, I was aware technology would protect me. I was locked up in the cells alongside some half naked detainees for about five minutes but continued talking. My inmates were excited to see me, encouraged me to continue talking.

“After a moment I was called out and released without even recording a statement. That was when I added up the events and realized my arrest was meant to divert attention from Besigye’s arrest,” Turyagumanawe recounted.

Political tension is high in Uganda after a section of opposition leaders, including three presidential candidates, rejected the outcome of the February 18 polls.

Besigye, who came second behind President Yoweri Museveni in the elections, has since been detained at his home, where visitors are also restricted.