Mukono 21st/May/2012; Three journalists working in Mukono district were attacked on Sunday by members of Mount. Lebanon Church as they went to cover a news story about the controversy surrounding the church. The church is led by Pastor Samuel Landasa.
The journalists included Kalumba Ronald of WBS television, Paddy Nsobya of Bukedde Newspaper (Vision Group of Companies), Makumbi Joseph of the Red Pepper and Bbuule Moses Kizito of Bukedde radio. They were attacked by a group of about five members of the church in a scuffle that lasted for about 30 minutes. The journalists had gone to get the pastor’s side of the story about allegations that he had banished some critical members from his church.
One of the victims, Kalumba Ronald told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he lost his tools of work and sustained bruises and body pain.
“We were waiting at a nearby shop opposite the church for the Service to end when a male church member came to us and warned us against writing about the pastor. He was shortly joined by three others who pounced on me; one of them started strangling me as the others pulled my video camera until I surrendered it to them along with its electronic charger, flash disc, company Identity Card, and other recorded materials. They kept threatening us with death if we did not stop writing about the pastor who the y said hates journalists.” said Kalumba.
Another victim Paddy Nsobya, who corroborated Kalumba’s account of the story, told HRNJ-Uganda that he was slapped several times as he tried to help Kalumba hold on to the camera. He was bruised in the process.
Kizito Moses Bbuule who was passing when he saw a group rough up journalists said he joined to save his colleagues. He was held by the collar and slapped by the group which he says was led by one Shem Ssemanda.
On Sunday, Pastor Landasa expelled some members who were accusing him of illegally conducting church marriages and changing the church land title into his names. Those banned were later arrested by police. It is this story that the journalists were following up on.
The Chairman Mukono Media Bureau, Joshua Kasawuzi told HRNJ-Uganda that the police did not help matters when he called them to rescue the journalists. “I personally rang the DPC for Mukono police Saiko Kyomwangesi to rescue our colleagues but he brushed the matter away by asking if the journalists had been invited to the church before he hang up on me. Kyomwangesi however said he referred the matter to his OC station as he was reportedly away from the station.
“HRNJ-Uganda has embarked on a fact-finding mission with a view of bringing the attackers to justice and therefore calls on the police in the area to professionally handle the matter. Criminalizing the work of journalists is one of the worst forms of abusing media rights and freedoms and should therefore be dealt with decisively by relevant authorities.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala