Kampala, 08th February 2013; A Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) television journalist, William Ntege a.k.a Kyumakyayesu who was sprayed by the police during an arrest in Kampala, has developed a strange skin reaction. It is not clear what substance was used to spray at the journalist. He first complained of an irritating skin, which started peeling off two days later, starting from the chin and later the forehead and in the sides which were most sprayed at.
Ntege, who on the 25th January 2013 had camped at the police headquarters along parliamentary avenue in Kampala, was sprayed with pepper before he was violently arrested and whisked away on a police car to the Central Police Station (CPS) from where he was detained. He was charged with ‘obstructions’ and released on police bond the next day.
“You spray him, spray him.” Ntege quotes the police operations commander, Grace Turyagumanawe as having ordered the police officers during the assault. Ntege has sought treatment from private clinics.
The journalist was demanding for compensation of his video camera that was destroyed on October 4th 2012 while covering the arrest of former opposition Forum for Democratic Change president, Dr. Kizza Besigye at the CPS in Kampala when police reportedly pushed him down the CPS stairs damaging his camera in the process. He has since camped at the police headquarters twice demanding for compensation. The Inspector General of Police, LT. Gen Kale Kayihura had earlier assured Ntege that he would be compensated. Mid last year, police compensated Ntege’s two cameras which had been damaged when police officers assaulted him as he covered news stories in Kampala.
“We don’t have any special type of spray, we use only pepper spray. It may react differently on different people,” said the spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan Police Ibin Ssenkumbi, when HRNJ-Uganda contacted him about the type of spray used on Ntege, adding that, “with due respect, Ntege wants to use rude methods of seeking for compensation.”
“Compensation is a process; I know that they are trying to compensate him.” The police deputy spokesperson, Vincent Ssekatte told HRNJ-Uganda. He could not state the progress of the ‘Obstructions’ charges preferred against Ntege. No police officers have been held liable for the incident. The police have been criticized on a number of occasions for using excessive force when handling civilians, especially the opposition politicians and the media practitioners covering such activities.
“The police have severally targeted journalists covering opposition related activities, accusing them of being opposition activists. This criminalization of their journalistic work has scared away some journalists from taking up assignments to cover such news scenes. This is a direct attack on freedom of the media and right to information as provided by the Constitution and other local and international laws to which Uganda is a party. The police should investigate and prosecute its officers who assault journalists on duty as a way of ending brutality against media practitioners and dully compensate the victims.” said HRNJ-Uganda’ National Coordinator, Wokulira Ssebaggala.