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Uganda journalist missing after a mysterious meeting

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Ugandan radio journalist Arafat Nzito disappeared last week, and human rights observers in Uganda think he is being held by the country's Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force, a security arm of the Ugandan government.

Nzito, 23, had been working for two months with Radio Simba, a popular FM station known for its political talk shows before those were banned. He left his office for what he thought was a brief meeting with people repeatedly calling him and asking him to meet them in a nearby parking lot. He never returned.

"He was in the newsroom working on a story, so he requested his colleagues, 'Please don’t tamper with my piece, let me attend to these people, I’ll come back and finish my work,'" said Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, research director and program coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ), in a telephone interview.

Instead, Nzito was driven away in a "Toyota double cabin" with tinted windows. Four other men were sitting inside, according to witnesses who talked to HRNJ. The men he met with, and between whom he was sandwiched in the car, were dressed in plain clothes.

Ssebaggala told me neither HRNJ, which is investigating the matter, nor Radio Simba knew who the men were or what they were calling about. Radio Simba staff tried reaching Nzito by phone, but he didn't answer. They began to worry the next day. Nzito didn't turn up for an editorial meeting, and his sister phoned the station to say she hadn't seen Nzito for two days.

The motive for the possible kidnapping is unclear. Nzito is a crime reporter with the station who also occasionally covers the country's opposition party, Ssebaggala said. Nzito's bosses insisted to Ssebaggala that the cub reporter's political coverage was fact-based and fair.


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