Pader, 12th/December/2012; The police in Pader have beaten up a journalist, Frank Ezaruk who is the Uganda Radio Network (URN) bureau chief for Kitgum in Northern Uganda.
Ezaruk was covering a story about the contentious land in Manilamintwiea from where people were evicted in 1920. The former Member of Parliament for Erute North Angiro Gutomoi Charles had threatened to move to that area with about 5,000 evictees, however, Police moved to block him.
Police went ahead to arrest some locals they accused of conniving with Angiro to cause chaos. So when Ezaruk took photos of these suspects and others like the Pader district chairman, Alfred Akena while addressing the locals, four policemen in a nearby parked police pick up descended on him, grabbed his camera and started deleting the photos one by one.
“The officer in charge of operations for Pader district Onek Romeo Ojara took me over to the District Police Commander for Pader, Sabiiti Ambrose who said he had not given me permission to take any photos. Sabiiti therefore ordered that they should take my camera and detain me as well. They ordered me to sit down. When I asked for the crime I had committed, two policemen kicked me from behind until I was on the ground.” Narrated Ezaruk to HRNJ-Uganda.
Ezaruk said that after about an hour on the ground, they now wanted to tie him along with other suspects, but when he resisted saying he wasn’t a criminal, two other policemen pushed him further on the ground and tied his arm with a rope. The OC Operations however ordered to untie him moments later.
The police then immediately charged Ezaruk with criminal trespass and taking photos from a prohibited area.
“They took my statement which they wanted me to sign without reading it back to me as required by law. They had omitted the part where I said I had been kicked and pushed on the ground. They later included it and I signed. And I was released on bond. My arm is hurting and am suffering from serious back pain” Said Ezaruk.
When contacted, the DPC Sabiiti told HRNJ-Uganda that the journalist committed an offence when he took photos of a prohibited area without permission from the police. He threatened to prosecute Ezaruk if he misbehaves now.
“I had pardoned him but now that he is making noise, I am going to prosecute him. This issue is complicated, and this land wrangle can not be reported in the media. I had told him not to take any photos from here. So he committed a crime. But I don’t know who deleted his photos” Said Sabiiti.
Ezaruk reported back to police on 12th/January/2012 and had his bond was extended to the 18th/January/2012 as investigations into the alleged case continue.
“HRNJ-Uganda is currently undertaking investigations into the matter and will not hesitate to take punitive action against these police officers.” HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala noted.