Uganda: Journalists Paying the Price

Journalists covering the presidential campaigns have faced the wrath of security forces on what seems to be targeted attacks on the media to scare them from covering the violence being meted out on Ugandans.

Police and other security forces have unleashed violence on journalists especially those covering Opposition presidential candidates, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine of National Unity Platform (NUP) party and Mr Patrick Oboi Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

The latest attacks on journalists occurred on Wednesday when spontaneous protests broke out in the capital Kampala and several upcountry towns after Bobi Wine was arrested.

Some attacks were orchestrated by security forces while a few others were carried out by goons taking advantage of the chaotic situation.

Mr Saif-llah Ashraf Kasirye, a Radio One journalist and an online Ghetto Tv cameraman, was beaten and pepper-sprayed by police while he covering the Bobi Wine arrest. He is now admitted in hospital in critical condition.

Another journalist, Mr Sam Balikowa of City FM and Nile TV in Jinja was arrested while covering the arrest of Bobi Wine.

Mr Yasiin Mugerwa, the Daily Monitor news editor, was attacked at around 11pm while returning home from office by goons, who threw a log at his car and destroyed it. He was, however, unharmed in the incident.

Another Daily Monitor new editor, Mr Patrick Matsiko wa Mucoori also survived robbers along the Munyonyo-Kajjansi stretch of the Entebbe Expressway as he returned home from the office at night.

The robbers had laid stone barricades on the road which a car ahead of the one he was in hit first and crashed on the pedestrian lane.

The Daily Monitor car, which was transporting Mr Matsiko, also ran into the scattered barricades but the robbers fled after a soldier, who was in the first car, opened fire on them.

Mr Arthur Wadero, a journalist with Daily Monitor, was nearly stripped naked while covering the protests in downtown Kampala on Wednesday. The goons declared him a security informer and a mob descended on him.

Elsewhere, Ms Damali Mukhaye, Mr Alex Esagala and Mr Abubakar Lubowa of the same publication were harassed by security forces while they covered campaigns in eastern Uganda.

Mr Gabriel Buule, a features writer at Daily Monitor, was also admitted in hospital after he and his boda boda rider were hit by Local Defence Unit (LDU) operatives. Mr Buule says he fell off the motorbike and was badly injured.

Earlier on November 12, a crew from NBS TV led by reporter Daniel Lutaaya and cameraman Thomas Kitimbo were attacked by thugs in Lira City where they were covering the Bobi Wine campaigns. Their laptops, camera chargers, and phones, were stolen and their media-branded vehicle vandalised.

Mr Moses Bayo, a freelance journalist and a documentary filmmaker, was injured by a rubber bullet fired by police as he recorded Bobi Wine campaigns a few days ago.

A news editor, Mr John Bosco Mwesigwa, was sacked from his job at City FM on accusations of writing pro-Opposition stories while security confiscated a camera of an NTV journalist who was covering the protests in Kampala on Wednesday.

A Vision Group journalist, Mr Tonny Lule, has spent more than a week in police detention at the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka on allegations of cyber harassment against the First Family.

There have been several similar incidents of police brutality against journalists since the presidential nominations at the start of this month.

On November 3, journalists from different media houses covering Mr Bobi Wine's team were pepper-sprayed in Nakawa en route to the nomination venue in Kyambogo, Kampala.

On the same day, Vision Group journalist Ronald Kakooza was arrested while covering a fracas at FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi where security forces had a confrontation with the Opposition party leaders and supporters.

Mr Robert Ssempala, the executive director of the Human Rights Network for Journalists, Uganda condemned the police attacks against journalists saying it points to heightened abuse and violence against journalists covering the Opposition candidates.

"We call upon the security forces to act with self-restraint when handling journalists covering campaigns," he said.

The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) also condemned the violence against journalists covering the election campaigns.

"These actions are not only threatening journalists but also the free flow of information, which is especially vital during this election period," Dr Peter Mwesige, the ACME executive director, said.

Media gagged

Dr Kizza Besigye, an Opposition politician, said the indifference by media houses to broadcast live feeds of the brutal arrests of Opposition members is giving the security forces more impetus to continue their mayhem with impunity.

"Media blackout of what's been taking place in Kampala after the arrest of presidential candidate Hon Kyagulanyi is very ominous. With several people confirmed dead and tension mounting, NBS TV is broadcasting live President Museveni's campaign in Moroto; others quiet.," Dr Besigye said.

He added: "Scientific" Campaigns? NRM/Museveni junta-controlled media is not accessible to most candidates and, yet, the Junta decreed that candidates cannot hold rallies. They are supposed to campaign in 146 districts (351 parliamentary constituencies) in only 60 days," Dr Besigye twitted on Wednesday.

Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson and Mr Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, did not respond to our repeated calls.

Source: The Monitor

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