Kampala, 23rd/Feb/2011, Stick-wielding hooligans linked to the Kampala mayoral candidate of the ruling NRM party Peter Ssematimba have assaulted six journalists at Kakeeka polling station, Rubaga Parish, Lubaga division in Kampala.
Ugandans on February 23rd were electing the local council five chairperson and district councilors.
Information indicate that the hooligans hatched a plan to beat up journalists as they called media houses that a candidate Peter Ssematimba was going to vote at Kakeeka polling station at 10am and therefore requested for media presence . Peter sematember had voted earlier than the time communicated.
The plan to beat up journalists resulted from wide coverage that was highlighting the election regularities where several ballot boxes were found full with pre-ticked ballot papers favoring Peter Ssematimba the ruling party candidate.
“We were tricked that Ssematimba was going to vote at Kakeeka. Many of us went but reaching there we found hooligans throwing stones at police and polling officials and we started recording” said Nabukeera a victim journalist.
She said the violence sparked off when some supporters questioned the volume of ballots which were stuffed yet there was small number of voter who had turned up.
Among the journalists critically assaulted and beaten up in the line of duty is Nabazziwa Lydia a reporter for Bukedde TV who sustained a serious injury on the right ear and is undergoing an operation at Kololo Hospital. She was beaten up at super FM Radio owned by the Ruling party candidate Peter Ssematimba where there was a report that pre-ticked ballot papers had been dropped in the toilet where she was roughed up.
Nixon Bbaale a camera person with Channel 44 TV survived with a big cut on his head while covering the scuffle at Kakeeka polling station in Lubaga division. He is currently admitted at Mengo hospital in St. Luke Ward one in a critical condition.
Brian Nsimbe a reporter for Channel 44 TV was assaulted and injured one of his arms. He was admitted at Mengo hospital and later discharged.
Nabukeera Florence a reporter with Bukedde FM was violently beaten up at Kakeeka polling station in Rubaga where she had gone to cover Peter Ssematimba a candidate while voting. According to the medical report, she has developed a clot in the left arm which has swollen and is being attended to at Rubaga Hospital.
Namatumbwe Christine a reporter and Luganda News anchor at Metro FM was also roughed up and sustained several injuries on the right arm, her radio recorder, mobile phone and the hand bag were all stolen. She was rushed to Rubaga hospital for medical treatment and later discharged.
The Metro fm Editor Hasfa Namuli told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that by the time of attack, Namatumbwe was reporting live from the polling station about the scuffle between National Resistance Movement-Organization’s candidate Peter Ssematimba and Ssuubi’s candidate Erias Lukwago.
“I found her at the Lubaga hospital in severe pain where she was admitted following injuries on her right arm” said Namuli
Jane Anyango a senior reporter with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Television was violently assaulted at the Kakeeka polling station. Anyango was critically injured in the face, had blood ooze from the mouth, sustained injuries on the leg and has bruises on the buttocks and is in acute pain. She is undergoing treatment at Mayor Clinic.
She told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that victims who were interviewed before had alleged that Ssematimba had hired hooligans to clobber journalists and supporters of rival candidates.
“I saw them armed with sticks with nails and stones to assault us. The hired hooligans were traveling in four taxies to the scene of the crime” said bleeding Anyango.
“We are worried about the escalating cases of violence against journalists in Uganda. This is the highest number of victims we have received since the beginning of electoral process in November in 2010 committed in a day” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
The beating up of journalists occurred in the presence of an armed police constables who looked on as journalists were being assaulted.
In this election, frontline journalists e.g. photographers and camera persons and their tools that were used to document history were majorly targeted following the media coverage that unearthed a lot of election irregularity marred the just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections.
In the meantime, HRNJ-Uganda has also recorded a case where four journalists including Steven Mbidde a journalist with K FM and Michael Kigozi a presenter and reporter with radio One as well as two female journalists from Bukedde TV were cut-off by stick-wielding hooligans at Super fm but police rescued them before the situation had gone out of hands.
The harassment was one of the tools to intimidate journalists as a measure to silence them from covering critical areas referred to as hot spots where election malpractice was suspected to occur.
On Friday the 18th February 2011 during the presidential and parliamentary elections, Julius Odeke a journalist with the Red Pepper and the Razor was shot in the ribs and Gerald Mutembu, a journalist with WBS TV was mobbed up and boxed and his lips shattered.
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda condemns such violence subjected to journalists in the strongest term possible and pledge to work with police to ensure that those who were involved in this violence are arrested and brought to justice.
The election that was characterized with ballot stuffing and has since been suspended after it was reported that the process was full of irregularities that were highlighted in the media earlier in the day.
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