KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police arrested a team of BBC journalists for illegal possession of prescription drugs, but the country’s government spokesman said the reporters had been helping to expose corruption, and demanded their immediate release.
Patrick Onyango, Uganda’s police spokesman, said on Thursday five suspects had been detained overnight. They included two Ugandans and one Kenyan working for the British broadcaster, as well as the wife of a local journalist from NBS Television who was working with them, and a driver.
Fourteen boxes of tablets had been seized, along with other vaccines.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the journalists had been cooperating with the State House Health Monitoring Unit to investigate the theft and sale of Ugandan government drugs in neighboring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I am yet to find out the logic why police arrested these journalists, who in my view were helping government to unearth the rot which is in the system,” said Opondo. “They should be released unconditionally.”
The BBC said it was in contact with the authorities over the case.
Uganda’s decrepit healthcare system is riddled with corruption and doctors and nurses frequently complain about shortages of basic supplies like gloves, medicines and vaccines.
Opondo said that police had told him the journalists were “intending to embarrass the government”. He said such a reason for their arrest would be “absurd.”
Additional reporting and writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Peter Graff