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Our investigative report on drug theft not affected by Police action — NBS

Joyce Bagala, the news manager at Next Media, the parent company of NBS Television, said what Police did only delays the airing of the story but does not affect the wider investigative report as it was expected to be produced.

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CORRUPTION | The investigative report on theft and sale of government drugs on the black market that led to the controversial arrest of NBS and BBC journalists will air as planned.

Police on Wednesday arrested three BBC journalists and their driver as well as Vivian Nakaliika Serwanjja, wife of NBS senior investigative reporter Solomon Serwanjja — who had gone into hiding when Police swooped in on his colleagues — charging them with being in possession of government drugs.

Sendo Cleaners

The controversial arrest has seen the public accuse Police of sabotaging a critical investigative report seeking to expose corruption, with many on social media saying the Police action had only helped culprits to cover their tracks as well as exposed the reporters working undercover.

But Joyce Bagala, the news manager at Next Media, the parent company of NBS Television, said what Police did only delays the airing of the story but does not affect the wider investigative report as it was expected to be produced.

“I assure our audience that the investigative report will come out. We have all our material intact. The reporters handling the project have also resumed work following their release from custody,” she said.

Initial reports during the arrests were that Police were interested in the gadgets the journalists were using, but there is no immediate indication that Police got their hands of them. Bagala’s clarification that what they gathered remain intact would be reassuring to most viewers of the station.

NBS news editor Ernest Wisdom Kiyonga said the sting was already too far ahead for Police’s “interruption” to affect them substantially.

“The investigation was interrupted at its advanced stage. The Police action won’t affect it much, if at all. It’ll go on and produce some results,” Kiyonga said.

NBS said in a statement over the arrest that it had commissioned an investigation into the allegations that top officials in health agencies were selling Uganda government drugs on the black market and across the borders.

“The main purpose of the investigation was to cast a spotlight on how alleged corruption is aiding Me sale of government drugs. The arrests come at the conclusion stage of the three-week investigation,” the broadcaster said.

On Wednesday, Police raided Serwanjja’s home in Mukono but did not find him. Instead, they arrested his wife Nakaliika “to help with investigations” and explain how government drugs ended up at their home.

At the Serwanjjas, Police claimed that a search had recovered 14 boxes of Lumefantrine tablets (used in combination to treat non-severe malaria), vaccines for hepatitis B and other drugs labeled with government seals.

The BBC staffers arrested were Godfrey Badebye, Shafiq Kisame, Rashid Kisame, and Muhammad Kassim.

The journalists were arrested while undercover in Makindye suburb of Kampala where they sought to buy the drugs as part of evidence in their investigative report.

Efforts to get a comment from Police spokesperson about concerns that their actions had jeopardised an investigative work that was being done in public interest as well as their rush action putting the lives of the journalists undercover at risk have been futile.

Deputy spokesperson Polly Namaye referred this news website to Met Police publicist, but Onyango was yet to give his side of the story.

However, Police on Friday acknowledged investigations the journalists were working on, saying it was “aware of the important role the media plays in investigative reporting… and “highly commend them for their tireless efforts” in fighting corruption.

“We do encourage them to continue with their documentary programme and achieve their intended objective of exposing their targets, to help prevent such occurrences in future,” Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.

OIn a statement, he said Police had created a task force that would build on the available facts on file and reports of the investigative journalists’.

“We are going to establish the culprits behind the alleged theft and sale of government drugs, in these government hospitals and will ensure all suspects that are criminally liable are brought to book,” Enanga said.

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