A New Era journalist was unlawfully arrested and assaulted by a female police officer on Saturday at Oshakati while the reporter was on duty taking photos at a crime scene.
The incident, in which the journalist Nuusita Ashipala suffered emotional and physical trauma, took place at Game Complex in the town.
Police officers arrived at Game after they were tipped off by security guards that there were thieves and pickpockets in the shops opening customers’ bags in their quest to steal.
Ashipala, who is also a complainant in the matter of being pickpocketed, was ironically unlawfully arrested and assaulted for taking pictures despite informing a police officer that she was an accredited member of the media on duty.
“It did not help to inform her that I was from the media. She pushed me around, handcuffed me before she put me in the police van and requested fellow police officers to close the van’s doors. She slapped me two times,” said Ashipala.
Other police officers present at the scene also displayed their ignorance claiming Ashipala was “wrong” to take photos of the suspects being arrested after they were implicated in pickpocketing. A large crowd had also gathered at the scene where Ashipala was bundled into the police van, which added to her humiliation.
She was ordered to delete the pictures from her cellphone.
“They claim they don’t take pictures of dead bodies, but they want to take pictures of us while carrying out our duties,” said the female police officer whom fellow police officers identified as one constable Kandina.
Ashipala was only freed after close to half an hour of being locked up in the police van when a police officer who is always at crime scenes in the region identified her and came to her rescue.
The police officer, who is said to be an inspector by rank informed the other police officers about the duties of the media and the role they play in assisting the police to combat crime.
Ashipala said she was humiliated in front of a huge crowd for not committing any crime, while her two-year-old son and a cousin were left wondering around “because I had the car keys and house key on me”.
“What happened was really uncalled for, and I want action taken against this Kandina. Her job is to uphold the law and protect citizens, but she seems to have forgotten the responsibility bestowed upon her by the state,” said Ashipala.
Ashipala was bundled into the back of a police van together with some of the suspects also wrongly detained for alleged pickpocketing.
The Regional Commander of Oshana Region, Commissioner Rauha Amwele, said she was yet to be briefed on the incident and thus could not comment.
Ashipala said she would open a police case today (Monday) with the internal police unit that investigates cases involving the police as she said she could not afford to take chances considering the fact dockets occasionally “disappear” from the charge office. Members of the unit do not work over weekends.
When approached for comment the editor of New Era, Chrispin Inambao, roundly condemned the incident saying it bodes ill for the image of the police.