The three journalists attached to BBC currently in police custody were investigating into the sale of government drugs by government officials according to Next Media Services, which owns NBS TV.
Godfrey Badebye, Mohamed Kissame, Rashid Kaweesa and their driver, Shafiq Kisame as well as Vivian Nakaliika, the wife to NBS news anchor Solomon Serwanjja are currently held at the central police station (CPS).
Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) spokesperson Patrick Onyango told journalists on Thursday that Badebye, Kassim and Kisame were picked up from Makindye on Wednesday night while meeting an unidentified medical officer to sell them government drugs.
Onyango claimed that during interrogations from a safe house, the trio told investigators that they were recording a documentary. They also reportedly disclosed that they had bought some drugs and stored them at the residence Serwanjja in Mukono.
According to Onyango, a team of operatives from police and the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) cordoned off Serwanjja's home until morning when they conducted a search and recovered 14 boxes of government drugs. The officers picked up Serwanjja's wife, Nakaliika who was at home during the search.
Nakaliika is also the communications officer in charge of health promotion and behavioral change in the ministry of Health. Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said the investigation into theft of government drugs by government officials was sanctioned by State House Health Monitoring Unit.
The stolen drugs are reportedly sold by government officials in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Opondo called for immediate and unconditional release of the journalists. According to Opondo, police told him the journalists were arrested because they were working on a story that was damaging to government.
The suspects have been slapped with tentative charges of illegal possession of classified drugs. In a statement Next Media Services says it commissioned an investigation into the illegal sale of government drugs in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The statement says the main purpose of the investigation was to cast a spotlight on how alleged corruption is aiding the sale of government drugs.
"The arrest of the journalists comes at the conclusion stage of the three week's investigation," reads the statement.
Adding that, "NBS Television together with BBC are currently working with relevant authorities to secure the release of those arrested."
Journalists within and outside the country have condemned the arrests, saying they are aimed at curtailing media freedom. The Foreign Correspondents Association in Uganda (FCAU) called for the immediate release of the journalists.