Kampala, 31st/May/2012; the police force has apologized to the media for the excesses of the police officers against the journalists on duty.
“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.
He was at a one day meeting between the police leadership and media organizations held at Emin Pasha Hotel in Kampala to harmonize the relationship between the two institutions.
The Press Freedom Index Report 2011 released by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) indicated that attacks on journalists had risen to 107 documented cases compared to 58 in 2010 and 38 in 2009. Most of these attacks happened at the hands of police, but none of them was investigated conclusively and no reports were released by the police to this effect.
Kayihura said that the force he presides over and him personally believe that the media is a very important 4th estate of government, and would therefore go against police officers who met out brutality onto journalists.
The participants questioned the mandate of the police to arrest, beat up, kick and use guns on suspects who have already surrendered and handcuffed. They urged the police to desist from adjudicating cases, but forward all matters to court for justice to be delivered.
“The police must at all times act within the confines of the law. The law must be complied with even if heaven was to fall. Where do the police get the power to arbitrary arrest, beat and kick suspects who have even surrendered to them.” noted a Human Rights lawyer and media expert during the meeting.
Kayihura admitted to a wacky relationship between the media and Uganda Police Force despite what he said were efforts to solve the impasse.
“There is some bit of rubbing each other the wrong way; the journalists exaggerate and some officers mishandle the journalists. So there is a problem. We have investigated some officers, arrested some and compensated some journalists without going into legalities, but the problem has remained.” Kayihura observed.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the two institutions agreed to maintain high ethical and professional standards. They also agreed to put in place a media relations policy with expert input by the media practioners. They further agreed on investigating all cases of attacks on journalists as reported by the media. They welcomed Kayihura’s apology and agreed to continue dialoguing for a better relationship between the two giants.
“We feel we have not been helped by the police leadership and it’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) in cases involving police officers, worst of all even where they are not involved. So journalists are an endangered species. We would like to see a more pro-active PSU with feedback mechanism to the complainants. We however welcome the initiative of dialogue by the police. We commend the IGP Kayihura for the bold stance to apologize. We are as such very interested in seeing what becomes of his apology in as far as safeguarding the media rights and freedoms is concerned.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.