The arrest of a Ugandan news anchor at a Kenyan television station has sparked social media outrage overnight across East Africa.
Kenya Television Network (KTN) journalist Joy Doreen Biira, a Ugandan citizen, was arrested in Kasese, western Uganda during a police offensive on the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Palace in response to clashes between security forces and rebels linked to a tribal king that left 55 dead.
Fighters linked to the royal guard of the Rwenzururu king, Charles Wesley Mumbere, attacked a police post in his hometown of Kasese on 26 November. The attack resulted in the death of 14 police officers and 41 combatants of the separatist militia.
While Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) responded with the arrest of the king, who officials accuse of inciting violence, officers also arrested Biira, during the raid on Kasese, where she was reported to be attending a traditional wedding.
Uganda police spokesman Felix Kaweesi told KTN that the journalist was arrested alongside her partner Newton and three other people from her uncle's house, and was detained overnight. Kaweesi, who said the journalist entered a restricted area during UPDF's offensive, was granted bond today (28 November), but users and colleagues took to social media to vent their anger.
Fellow Kenyan radio presenter Aurther Mandela, better known as Xtian Dela, however, claimed Biira's arrest may have been linked to a statement the journalist published on her Facebook page in which she condemned the attack in Rwenzururu. Ugandan security forces have previously been accused of beating and arresting journalists.
"It's so sad what I've witnessed today with my own eyes [...] Thing is men have been killed," Biira said in the post.
Using the hashtag #FreeJoyDoreen, which was trending on Monday morning, colleagues and users condemned the violation of press freedom, and demanded her release.
In a Tweet, Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto said Kenya had "just imposed an embargo against the Republic of Uganda. Joy is now a Kenyan citizen by adoption".