24th/Jan/2011; Four journalists have been physically attacked in different incidents in one week, with just 26 days to the February 18th 2011 general elections.
The victims include Issa Aliga a Masaka correspondent for NTV and Ssozi Ssekimpi the Masaka based Top Radio editor. They were both assaulted by the Masaka district woman Member of Parliament Sauda Namagwa on Jan/20th/2011 at Masaka Central Police Station where Namagwa had gone to record a statement over a crash with her political opponent, Freda Mubanda who is vying for the same seat.
The other journalist is Mutegeki Geoffrey working with Voice of Tooro in Fort Portal. He was assaulted by policemen who mistook his cell phone for a camera. He suffered the police wrath on Jan/17th/2011 when he went to cover an impending students’ strike at Fort Portal School of Clinical Officers. The school is found in Western Uganda.
The forth is the Red Pepper photo journalist Michael Kakumirizi. He was mobbed up by the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) supporters in Lango sub region who were allegedly bribing the locals at Aloi Police Post in the newly created Alebeatong district in an attempt to make them shun Dr. Kizza Besigye’s campaign rally on Wednesday 19th/Jan/2011. Besigye is the leader of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party. He is the joint opposition (IPC) candidate and Museveni’s stiffest contender.
Kakumirizi, in his late 20s, escaped with a deep wound on his forehead and bruised arm which were hit by bricks and a bicycle that was thrown at him.
The other victim is Francis Tumwekwasize a former journalist with WBS TV now attached to the Inter Party Cooperation (IPC) Press Unit. He was also assaulted together with Kakumirizi by the NRM supporters.
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has noted that perpetrators of this violence target to destroy or confiscate journalists’ tools of trade especially the video and photo cameras.
“Majority of the Cases recorded last week are related to the on-going
presidential and parliamentary campaigns. This clearly has a substantial negative effect on the freedom of expression and the media. Therefore journalists need an environment which enables them to document all such cases in order to map out strategies of securing their areas of operation.” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
Well as HRNJ-Uganda is working closely with authorities to ensure that culprits are punished, none of these perpetrators have been arrested or prosecuted.
These criminal acts infringe on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom as enshrined in the 1995 constitution and international treaties ratified by Uganda.
HRNJ-Uganda is concerned that failure by police to prosecute those depriving journalists of their fundamental freedoms and rights has promoted of impunity and heightened the levels of violence.
Therefore, HRNJ-Uganda challenges the Uganda Police Force (UPF) to embark on investigating and prosecuting these cases of violence within a period of one week. The police should update HRNJ-Uganda on the progress of its action. Failure, our lawyers will be instructed to institute private prosecution cases.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627