HRNJ-Uganda concerned by sharp increase in attacks on media

This statement was originally published on on 19 November 2020.

Ashraf Kasirye, a freelance journalist with Uganda Radio Network, was yesterday 18 November 2020 pepper-sprayed by police while taking pictures of officers arresting the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential Candidate, Honorable Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine. Kyagulanyi was arrested from Kiyunga playground, Luuka district where he was set to hold his campaign rally. He is faulted for allegedly flouting the Electoral Commission and Ministry of Health Guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Kasirye, who is currently hospitalized, told HRNJ-Uganda that the attack was a targeted move, “They opened my eyes and mouth and pepper-sprayed inside. I tried to tighten my jaws but they forcefully opened my mouth and sprayed inside. I can’t see well and feel a lot of heat in the stomach. My phone, tripod stand, and microphone were taken.”

On the same day, Balikowa Samuel, a journalist connected to City FM in Jinja, was arrested while covering the arrest of Honorable Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu. Balikowa was detained in the police van for close to thirty (30) minutes and released unconditionally. He told HRNJ-Uganda that he was still feeling pain in the eyes and on his skin caused by the pepper spray and tear gas.

On Sunday 15 November 2020, Mukama Moses, a journalist attached to Baba FM in Jinja district, was assaulted by supporters of Engineer Moses Magogo, who is aspiring for Member of Parliament Budiope East Constituency. Mukama was covering Magogo’s campaign rally convened at Gumpi Primary School, Gumpi Sub County in Buyende district, Eastern Uganda. The supporters were accusing Mukama of allegedly supporting Magogo’s competitor for the same race, Honorable Dhamuzungu Geoffrey, who is the incumbent. Mukama lost his phone, camera, and other items. He sustained injuries on the head, chest, and back. He told HRNJ-Uganda that he has been passing blood as a result of the attack. He opened up a case of assault and robbery at Bugaya police station.

Meanwhile Tonny Lule, a journalist connected to Vision Group who was arrested last week on 12 November 2020, is still detained at the Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police. No one has had access to him, including his lawyers and the family. HRNJ-Uganda lawyer Diana Nandudu together with other lawyers to wit, Eriya Nawenuwe and Brenda Katusiime from Legal Aid Service Providers Network and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative respectively, were denied access to Tonny on Tuesday 17 November 2020. An order for unconditional release has been applied.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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