Kampala, January/25/2012; Isaac Kasamani, a Daily Monitor photographer narrowly escaped death when a police man shot at him on the 24th day of January at about 7:30PM local time, as he took a photo of a tear gas canister thrown near Dr. Kizza Besigye’s car at Gayaza road round about at Kalerwe as police dispersed people . Two others, Michele Sibiloni an AFP photographer and Suleiman Mutebi, a Bukedde T.V reporter were also roughed up.
Kasamani said that a policeman emerged from a van registration number UP 1928 and shot towards him as he took a photo.
“I was about 7metres away from this police van from which a teargas canister had been thrown near Besigye’s car. I bent down to take a picture of the exploding canister. I saw the door of this van open and in a split second one of its occupant s–a man in a blue camouflaged police uniform shot in my direction, closed the door and sped off very fast. The bullet missed me narrowly as I was bending down to take the picture but I saw the sparks in my face. I was startled by the incident,” Kasamani told HRNJ-Uganda.
On Saturday 21th/Jan/2012, Kasamani while covering a scuffle between Besigye and police at Nakawa, a Kampala suburb had been confronted by the Kampala Metropolitan police (KMP) commandant, Assistant Inspector General of police Andrew Felix Kaweesi who told him that “So you are a Besigye journalist. You are everywhere he is.” However, Kaweesi denied the allegations when contacted by HRNJ-Uganda
“I have never threatened him to that effect. I don’t threaten anyone. Let him lodge a complaint about what happened and we investigate. Let them be careful in such times because anyone could be a victim in such situations. I could even see stones flying over Besigye’s vehicle,” said Kaweesi in his defence.
Suleiman Mutebi, a journalist with Bukedde television, who was also a victim of the attack, witnessed the shooting attempt, “I was just standing behind Kasamani. I saw a policeman open fire at him, and when I saw him bending, I feared the bullet had hit him. It missed him narrowly. Kasamani would be dead now”
Mutebi was roughed up by a policeman who attempted to grab his video camera. He managed to hold on tight to his camera before escaping from the wrath of the irate policeman. “He came to grab my camera. I pushed him off, he staggered to reach for his gun, and I swiftly took off into the crowd at the Kalerwe round about.”
Michele Sibiloni, an Italian photo journalist working with AFP news agency also struggled with two security personnel who attacked him from behind and forcefully attempted to take away his still camera.
“They grabbed me by the neck from behind pulling it backwards as they tried to grab my camera. I held on to it as I struggled to fight back. They lost the battle and ran away,” Sibiloni told HRNJ-Uganda.
Bukedde TV journalist, Suleiman Mutebi confirmed this. He told HRNJ-Uganda that he saw two men dressed in civilian attire running back to the police van after a bodaboda (motorcycle) cyclist helped in fighting to defend Sibiloni’s camera.
Hadijah Mwanje, a reporter and news anchor with K-FM radio, who witnessed the fracas, told HRNJ-Uganda that she has started fearing for her life. “They are going to shoot and kill some of us one of these days, so I have developed a lot of fear now to cover news in such situations.” Mwanje is the Deputy Chairperson of HRNJ-Uganda.
“The situation is worrying. The life and property of journalists are under serious threat. There is no safe haven to conduct their duties anymore. It is unfortunate that the institution that is supposed to keep law and order is responsible for creating disorder by breaking the law. They should desist from behaving like criminals”, said Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Programme Coordinator HRNJ-Uganda.
HRNJ-Uganda is greatly concerned about the safety of journalists at the hands of police and other security agents who have intensified their resolve to block the media from covering brutal crackdowns by police.
The police have a duty to protect all citizens of Uganda including journalists. We want the police chief Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura to come out and explain this situation, and why his security men are brutalizing and attacking journalists.