Arua. There was drama at Arua Air field terminal on Thursday as a squad of police officers led by the OC station Arua forcefully blocked the Obongi MP Fungaroo Kaps Hassan from addressing the press at the Airfield.
MP Fungaroo was set to brief the press on the refugee situation, the revamping of the Rhino Camp cotton Ginnery and the continued influx of the Balaalo cattle keepers before taking a flight to Entebbe.
But shortly on arrival at the terminal, the MP was besieged by armed police officers under the command of the OC Arua Jude Nasucha, who told the MP he could not talk to the press, but can go and do so in Moyo district.
“Honorable you cannot address the press here and I have come to tell you to go away and do it in Moyo or we take a step against you and the Press,” said Nasucha.
The police has always camouflaged under the Public Management Order Act, which they now abuse with impunity. The police acted on a tip by an official attached to the DISO’s office that is also attached to gather intelligence at the airfield. The journalists and the MP however engaged the police and Airfield staff on the law under which they were chasing them.
The statements of the OC provoked the MP who demanded to know which law the police are using to block Press conferences. The policemen could cite any law but said he was acting on orders.
During a recent Public Dialogue organized by Eastern Africa Media Institute, Center for Public Interest Law and Human Rights Network-Uganda, the Deputy Regional Police Commander, Grace Mutono, said they were committed to free press.
As the OC continued following the MP from passenger check point and around the park yard, other police officers were instructing the Journalists to board the police patrol vehicle to be taken back to Arua town. This call was rejected by the journalists who had used their own means to the airfield for the press conference.
Mr Fungaroo called it an infringement on media freedom and an abuse to freedom of expression. Lilly Akech, the Civil Aviation Authority security officer drew furious reaction from the MP and the Journalists after she demanded for written permission from Entebbe before any press conference could be held.
“Situations have changed and you have to produce a written permission to have such a press conference here or else we treat you as Air passengers,” said Akech.
Akech and Nasucha confronting Fungaroo. Photo by Felix
The situation later degenerated in to bitter exchanges between the MP, the police officers and airfield security personnel, attracting locals from the nearby trading center.
The MP has made it a tradition to address the press at the airfield before he could fly to Entebbe. This is the third time the MP is being blocked from either holding a press conference or conducting regional meetings.
The MP was forced to move out of the Airfield premises but the police continued following him up to a nearby trading center, where the press conference was further stopped.
The OC later called on the RPC West Nile, Saiga Ibrahim, who arrived together with the DPC Arua Jonathan Musinguzi and the police regional spokesperson for West Nile Josephine Angucia to reinforce the police action.
After nearly an hour of exchanges, the Journalists left the Airfield while MP Fungaroo was forced to board a waiting plane.