Police said the journalists were working "to embarrass the government," to which a government official said that would be an "absurd" reason to arrest them.
Ugandan police arrested a team of BBC journalists for the illegal possession of prescription drugs -- however, the country's government spokesman said the reporters had been helping to expose corruption, and demanded their immediate release.
Patrick Onyango, Uganda’s police spokesman, said Thursday that five suspects had been detained overnight. They included two Ugandans and one Kenyan working for the British broadcaster, as well as the wife of a local journalist from NBS Television who was working with them, as well as a driver.
Fourteen boxes of tablets had been seized, along with other vaccines.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the journalists had been cooperating with the State House Health Monitoring Unit to investigate the theft and sale of Ugandan government drugs in neighboring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
"I am yet to find out the logic why police arrested these journalists, who in my view were helping government to unearth the rot which is in the system," said Opondo. "They should be released unconditionally."
The BBC said it was in contact with the authorities over the case. Opondo said that police had told him the journalists were "intending to embarrass the government." He said such a reason for their arrest would be "absurd."
Uganda's healthcare system is riddled with corruption, including bribes, and doctors and nurses frequently complain about shortages of basic supplies like gloves, medicines and vaccines.
"To what extent the private clinics and hospitals are regulated and monitored is not clear," Muniini Mulera wrote in the Daily Monitor.
"What is clear is that the neoliberal policies that continue to weaken public health care institutions in favour of private enterprise are a threat to the health of the vast majority of citizens."