A Ugandan journalist has reportedly been abducted after writing about a Finnish businessman who was found dead in a hotel room in Kampala just over a week ago.
The New Vision newspaper said that journalist Charles Etukuri was snatched on Tuesday in the capital city Kampala. Etukuri’s boss Felix Osike speculated that the country’s Internal Security Organization, ISO, was behind the reporter's disappearance because he had written an article suggesting that the security services were involved in the Finn’s death.
“We are absolutely sure that the kidnapping is related to Etukuri’s article about the death of the Finnish man at a hotel,” Osike, editor-in-chief of New Vision’s weekend edition and its investigative journalism team, said in a phone interview with Yle.
Osike said that armed men in military gear bundled Etukuri away near the paper’s office on Tuesday.
“The kidnappers are from security services. We know that they are security officials but we don’t know what unit they were from. They would not have wanted the story published. Publishing it did not serve their interests,” Osike added.
Minister denies kidnapping reports
The weekend editor said that he was very concerned about the reporter’s situation. He noted that Etukuri was being detained in Kampala, but said that the paper did not know his precise location.
“We don’t know if he has been assaulted. We don’t know how he is being treated. We don’t know if he is being tortured.”
Yle contacted Ugandan National Security Minister Henry Tumukunde, who admitted that Etukuri was no longer free but denied that he had been kidnapped.
“I don’t know the difference between abduction and other ... but he is Ugandan and he has not been abducted,” the minister told Yle by phone.
The Finnish businessman died in cloudy circumstances at Kampala’s Pearl of Africa hotel on 6 February. The Finnish Foreign Ministry confirmed the man’s death to Yle earlier this week.
Consultant fronted for Patria
Initial reports indicated that he was an external consultant visiting Uganda to promote products for the majority state-owned Finnish defence contractor Patria. On Tuesday, Patria confirmed that the man had been retained to represent the company. On Wednesday, Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintilä called on the defence firm to submit a report on the case.
The man was said to have had a forged letter of representation but Ugandan officials did not know who provided the letter. He was also said to have met with members of the ISO to market Patria defence technology.
Local police initially attributed the man’s death to natural causes but said they had not ruled out foul play. Police said they were awaiting the results of a toxicology report from coroners.
According to Etukuri’s account, some officers from the internal security forces were involved in the death. There was also speculation that the man was the victim of a scam.
New Vision said it had seen a letter sent by the man in January, in which he requested a visit and the opportunity to meet decision makers. The letter also claimed that the man had his own firm, which represented several other companies in the cyber security, security training and surveillance equipment sectors.
Former National Coalition Party Communications Minister Suvi Lindén had been on the same trip with the deceased. She was initially detained by police as part of the investigation into the man’s death, but was later released.