Kampala, 06th/June/2012; the police have embarked on investigations into cases of violence committed against journalists by state agencies and other non state actors that happened in the year 2011, including 2 murders.
This comes days after the Inspector General of Police; Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura came out and apologized to the media over the excesses committed by police officers against journalists. “I apologize for whatever has happened to journalists. I am going to re-open and investigate all of the 107 cases committed against journalists in 2011.” Kayihura said at one-day meeting between the police leadership and media organizations held on 30th, June his year at Emin Pasha Hotel in Kampala. The meeting was convened to harmonize a lukewarm impasse between the two institutions.
Police has since established a fully fledged department called The Press Unit to receive and investigate complaints from the media. It is headed by the former head of the police’s Media Crimes Department Commissioner Simon Peter Kuteesa. However, the powers and full mandate of this new unit are still unknown to HRNJ-Uganda.
“I would like to notify you that I have since then embarked on the due verification of the status of the ongoing inquiry into the abovementioned cases starting with the murder cases (of journalists) at Mukono and Masaka.” wrote Kuteesa to HRNJ-Uganda.
The Press Freedom Index Report 2011 released by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) indicated that attacks on journalists rose to 107 documented cases in 2011 compared to 58 in 2010 and 38 in 2009. Most of these attacks were committed by police officers, but none of them was investigated conclusively by the police leadership.
In a communication to HRNJ-Uganda, the police commended this journalists’ body for the openness about the misconduct of the police against news reporters and working to improve the professional status of the Uganda Police Force.
“I sincerely thank you all for the openness with which we discussed the issues at stake and I am convinced that we are in the right direction.” stated Kuteesa.
He said that this unit had in particular embarked on re-investigating the killing of two journalists; one in Mukono and another in Masaka, “As regards the murder cases at Masaka, I have established that this case was actually registered at Rakai in respect of the murder of the Late Kiggundu Paul…. In regard to the murder cases at Mukono, I have contacted the DCID, D/ASP Mugumya; who is incidentally on special duty at Namugongo. He has promised to furnish us with a Report on returning to office.” Kuteesa said of the two murder cases which were brought to the fore by HRNJ-Uganda.”
“This is a right step forward for the police to realize the need to fully execute it is mandate in protecting journalists and all Ugandans. It is in the interest of the media in Uganda and International Human Rights bodies including the United Nations Human Rights Council that the Police force is accountable to its citizens, so investigating all forms of excesses against the media is a very critical intervention. We hope that the police remain true to their commitment to conclusively investigate the errant officers and other non-state actors and ultimately hold them liable other than using this as a propaganda tool aimed at mere cleansing of the force’s tainted image due to inhumane handling of the civil community. The recent police brutality against frontline journalists has sternly endangered the work of the media. We would like to work with the police in furnishing them with all the relevant information crucial for bringing the perpetrators to book” said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.
He advised the police to desist from handling cases of non-professional conduct of journalists as these are issues of self-regulation which should be forwarded Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU) which is dully mandated to perform this role.
HRNJ-Uganda recommends that police put a time frame to all the investigations being undertaken so as to enable the media and other stakeholders monitor the progress. The police should also investigate cases of violence that were committed in 2009 and this year.