Kampala, 23rd/April/2012; Police have sprayed a journalist Joshua Mutale with pepper in the face as he covered a news story at the Central Police Station (CPS)in Kampala. Mutale had come to CPS to cover a weekly press briefing by the police.
The Radio Simba journalist was recording a protest by a group of bear breasted women who stormed CPS detesting the manner in which policemen fondled the breasts of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change women leader Ingrid Turinawe as they stopped her from attending a political rally at Nansana in Nansana Town Council, Wakiso district.
Mutale told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he was the only victim of the attack as no other people including the protesting women were sprayed at.
“I was recording the voices of the women with a recorder in one arm and a set of earphones in another when a policeman I hardly identified appeared and sprayed pepper into my eyes using a hand spray. I fell down and was helped by fellow journalists. It is surprising that I was the only victim of the attack. Imagine I had been assigned to cover the police weekly press briefing, but on getting to CPS, I found the women and decided to cover the story as well. The operation to engage the women was being commanded by the DPC of CPS James Ruhweza. I have since got information and evidence to pin my attacker” Mutale told HRNJ-Uganda.
The commander for Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi used the weekly press briefing at CPS to apologize to the media, promising to take action against the responsible policeman.
The police have recently assaulted over five journalists within the vicinity of CPS including; The Observer’s Siraje Lubwama, Eddoboozi’ Anatoli Luswa, NBS’ Remmy Bahati, Kingdom FM’s Hasifah Wanyana and the Vision Group’s Joseph Mutebi, among others.
“We believe that this attack is not an isolated incident. Targeting individual journalists is part of the broader police and state plan to muzzle the media. CPS is a public police facility where suspects are detained and therefore should be accessed by their relatives and lawyers and the media among others. The police have on many occasions promised to take action against the police who brutalize journalists, but have instead ended up protecting them and in some instances promoting them. We are very concerned about the high levels of police brutality against journalists. We are following up on the matter to ensure that justice prevails.” said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.