March 4, 2020 / 3:35 PM / a month ago

Uganda jails filmmaker doing documentary on opposition hopeful

KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan court sent an independent filmmaker to jail on Wednesday after he was accused of singing subversive songs while producing a documentary about a pop star seeking to unseat the long-serving president, his attorney said.

Ugandan independent filmmaker Moses Bwayo stands in the dock at the Makindye Magistrate Court in Makindye division of Kampala, in Uganda March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

The jailing of Moses Bwayo is part of what government critics call an escalating clampdown on independent media and the opposition ahead of a presidential election in the east African country early next year.

Bwayo was first arrested on Feb. 24 as he filmed a documentary about Bobi Wine, the pop star-turned-legislator who wants to wrest power from 75-year-old President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled for more than three decades.

After several days, he was freed on a police bond and ordered to report back on Wednesday. When he did, he was taken to court, charged and remanded, his lawyer Caleb Alaka said.

“I applied for bail ... but the magistrate decided to give a deaf ear to that and remanded him,” Alaka told Reuters.

According to a charge sheet seen by Reuters, Bwayo and eight others were accused of assembling unlawfully near a police barracks in the capital Kampala and singing songs “subverting or promoting subversion of the government of Uganda.”

He is due to return to court for a bail application on Friday. The eight others were also remanded in jail.

Wine has emerged as a strong challenger to the veteran president, often using his music to criticise the government and woo supporters.

Rattled by Wine’s good connection with youth, authorities have used security forces to crack down on supporters through arrests plus the use of teargas and beatings to disperse rallies.

In 2018, Wine and other opposition lawmakers were beaten by security forces after attending a political rally and he had to seek treatment abroad.

Joel Ssenyonyi, a spokesman for Wine, confirmed Bwayo had been sent back to jail, after following the politician for a documentary on behalf of a foreign media company.

There was no immediate word from the court or government.

Officials deny targeting political foes or the media.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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