Arizona-raised filmmaker discusses being behind bars in UgandaPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- Arizona native and documentary filmmaker Taylor Krauss has been dedicated to covering issues in Africa for nearly a decade, but his work last week landed him behind bars.
Krauss was arrested and detained in Uganda after taking video of an opposition rally involving hundreds of people in the streets. The demonstration followed a court appearance by Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda's main opposition party.
"The crowd is going wild, police trying to exert force, and they're unable to. This is when they basically start shooting tear gas into the crowd," Krauss said. "It was a crazy scene, tear gas, smoke everywhere. We were all running with our handkerchiefs to escape the tear gas."
Krauss can only describe what happened. He no longer has the video proof because he was detained and his camera was taken.
"A group of officers immediately grabbed my camera from me and wrestled me down and took me straight up to interrogation," Krauss said. "They confiscated my cameras. Later, I would discover all my cards would have been erased. I spent the next nine hours being interrogated before they decided to put me in prison."
Ugandan officials said Krauss didn't have the proper journalist permits to work in the country. His case was ultimately handed over the immigration authorities. No charges were filed, but he spent the next four days in custody in a small and crowded prison cell.
"It's pretty rudimentary, concrete floor, one hole for a toilet in the back," Krauss described. "Ironically, it was the people in the prison who I really became friendly with."
Krauss had alerted the U.S. Embassy shortly after being detained and his story quickly made international news.
"There were multiple members of Parliament who came to visit me, different organizations, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, all came to monitor my security and safety," he said.
Krauss was finally released and is now safely back home with a new appreciation for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
"I certainly feel privileged and lucky to be able to come back to this country and say things I believe," Krauss said.
However, he said his work abroad is far from done.
"I feel strongly for reporting about this stuff because the stories are not coming out from the inside," he said.
3TV has reached out to the spokesman for Uganda's Ministry of Internal Affairs but has not yet heard back.