Kampala, 06th/April/2012; the police have paid off Joseph Mutebi in an amicable settlement of an assault case by the Regional Police Traffic Commander for Kampala Metropolitan Police Lawrence Niwabiine. The case file has since been closed. But Niwabiine denied any wrong doing and staked his job if found guilty.
Three journalists were beaten as they covered the release on bail of the opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye and other opposition politicians accused of murdering an Assistant Inspector of Police John Bosco Ariong. The victims of the 28th/March/2012 beating near the High Court in Kampala included Siraje Lubwama a journalist with The Observer –a private news publication that comes out thrice a week, Joseph Mutebi who works for the government’ daily vernacular paper Bukedde and Hasifah Wanyana a court reporter for the private Kingdom FM radio. Two of the victims; Lubwama and Mutebi accused Niwabiine of personally slapping them.
Mutebi has since told HRNJ-Uganda that the matter was settled amicably and case file closed when police and his bosses settled the scores.
“I went to hospital and paid for my treatment, but the company and police compensated me for the medical bills and days I was no working as a result of the beating. Niwabiine was present and confessed to having assaulted me. He apologized, and I withdrew the case.” Mutebi told HRNJ-Uganda on Thursday.” Mutebi said.
Niwabiine who was seen at the scene in a white traffic uniform has denied any wrong doing when contacted by HRNJ-Uganda over the matter. He however is eager to meet any of the victim journalists.
“I have discovered that it was a mistaken identity. When they heard of Niwabiine, they were quick to think that I was me. I cannot beat up people. Really If I had beaten up journalists or ordered for their beating, how come no cameras captured me there? I don’t know this boy of The Observer –even if they brought Lubwama to me, I would not identify him. I know Mutebi physically but I have not to him lately. Mutebi later learnt that I was not there at the scene, so he was wrong. If I were around, someone would have captured me on camera. The moment I know Lubwama, I will talk to him and convince him. I have not had any meeting with either of the journalist because I was deployed for the Inter-Parliamentary Union Summit along Entebe road, so I have been very busy.” Niwabiine said during the interview.
He added that, “If anyone is to take me on, let them do that, I will leave this job and go, but I did no raise my hand to beat up Lubwama or even ordered for his beating. I did not command police in other uniforms. I am the only senior traffic police officer called Niwabiine, but really really it was not me , and it’s clear since no one got me on camera. But when u get information about these journalists, bring them to me, I have worked with journalists for so long and I will handle them. But really really I could not do such a thing.” He said in his defence.
When HRNJ-Uganda re-interviewed both journalists soon after talking to Niwabiine, they both maintained that it is Niwabiine who assaulted them.
“I know Niwabiine very well, so am very sure he is the policeman who first approached me and slapped me. I have all the evidence pinning him. He is not clean as he claims.” Lubwama told HRNJ-Uganda upon learning that Niwabiine had denied assaulting him.
On the day of the incident, HRNJ-Uganda interviewed him and he accused Niwabiine of slapping him when he spotted him taking down notes in his notebook.
“There was an exchange going on between Besigye and the police over which route to use. When I got out my notebook to take down notes, Niwabiine charged at me and asked me what I was writing down. He slapped me in the face when I told him that I was a journalist and showed him my press identity card. Two policemen grabbed me from behind and dragged me to the CPS from where others joined them and started kicking, slapping and hauling insults at me. One of them cheered on others saying that beat him since there are no cameras inside here. In the incident, I lost my money and had my three cell phone handsets shattered. I was rescued by a Daily Monitor journalist Chris Obore, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda the MP for Kyaddondo East and the KMP commandant Andrew Felix Kaweesi. But after the three had gone, the policemen came and beat me again and mixed me up with the other arrested people” Lubwama told HRNJ-Uganda on the day of the incident.
On Wednesday soon after the assault, Mutebi told HRNJ-Uganda that he was slapped by Niwabiine and hit with a baton by other policemen.
“I saw the police beating up the Mayor of Kawempe division, Munyagwa Mubarak, as I started to take photos, I heard Niwabiine ordering his men to clear me out of the way, and he mentioned my name, he immediately approached and slapped me hard in the face. He ordered another policeman to take care of me; the policeman hit me with a baton on my right hand. Niwabiine knows me very well because I have been covering crime news for the last eight years. He would even call me to cover his traffic operations. Another police officer Mwesigwa Onesmus pleaded for mercy for me. After the incident, I went to CPS to open up a case but the police at the reception declined, then I went to rooms 41 and 42 which also declined. But later on went to Kaweesi who calmed me down.” Mutebi narrated to HRNJ-Uganda as he pinned Niwabiine.
“HRNJ-Uganda is following up the matter to ensure that justice is delivered to the victims. We hope that independent investigations will be carried out expeditiously to the expectations of the general public which is he final consumer of the media work.” said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.
HRNJ-Uganda warns journalists of encouraging impunity by going for behind door settlements with the police who continue to brutalize journalists and criminalize some of their work like covering opposition related activities.
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