Kampala, 20th/January/2012; Three journalists who were covering the arrest of opposition politicians at Katwe, Ssezibwa and Katonga road in Kampala have been injured following attacks from multiple sources including law enforcement officers.
Several other politicians were arrested and detained at Jinja road and Kiira Police Station and beaten by law enforcement officers including police. The arrested included the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Dr. Kiiza Besigye, MPs Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, Wafula Oguttu, and Ingrid Turinawe among others. The arrest followed an opposition meeting by politicians who were at that time matching to Katwe, a Kampala suburb where they were planning to hold a public rally.
The victim journalists Include Michael Kigozi a journalist with Radio One and Two commonly known as Akaboozi ku bbiri, Hadijah Mwanje the Vice Chairperson of HRNJ-Uganda and a journalist with K-FM and Nasser Kayanja a journalist with Radio Simba.
Kigozi was beaten up by a policeman at Kiira road police. He hit him with a baton about ten times on his hands and other body parts as he demanded why he had taken photos without permission.
The police had earlier in the day arrested the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader Dr. Kizza Besigye and other opposition politicians over a planned opposition rally at Katwe in Uganda’s Capital Kampala. Besigye along with others had been detained at Kiira road police.
Kigozi says that the policeman mistook him for a photo journalist when he pulled out a mobile phone from his pockets at a time when a police vehicle had just arrived and packed at the police entrance.
“It was about 7:40Pm, the policemen were still ring-guarding the place, when a bus came and parked outside, I moved closer to observe. When I pulled out my mobile phone, this policeman descended on me and started hitting me with a baton demanding to know why I was taking photographs. Three other policemen joined shortly. Other policemen standing by pleaded for my innocence in vain. I was actually very shocked about this attack. It was a bit dark and I could not identify the policemen who beat me up since there was no security right at the police.” Kigozi told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).
He is however reluctant to pursue a legal case since he can hardly identify his attackers. He says that an apology from them, once identified would do for him. He was not injured but experienced body pains.
The Kiira road Division Police commander (DPC) Moses Ochieng told HRNJ-Uganda that he was not aware of the incident, “I am not aware of such an incident but I know Kigozi very well, so am going to investigate the matter and take punitive action against all those involved.”
In a related development, another journalist, Nasser Kayanja working with Radio Simba sustained an injury on his right leg when covering a scuffle of police trying to block the Kampala district Woman Member of Parliament, Nabbilah Naggayi from holding a political rally at Katwe in Kampala.
“I was hit by a stone during running battles between the police and Nabbilah’s supporters. Police fired tear gas to disperse them. I was hit with a stone and sustained an injury which was treated at Mulago hospital.” Kayanja told HRNJ-Uganda.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chairperson of HRNJ-Uganda, Hadijah Mwanje survived arrest along Ssezibwa road in Kampala where police had intercepted DR. Kizza Besigye and other opposition politicians.
The K-FM radio journalist and news anchor was mistaken for being Nabbilah’s young sister, prompting a plain-clothed security man to grab her by the arm.
“He approached me and pronounced me under arrest. I identified myself as a journalist but he could not listen to me and other journalists who had now taken to defending me. I was only saved by the DPC for the Central Police Station-Kampala, Norman Musinga who stopped my arrest.” Hadijah, who has been a target of the police during riots and demonstrations before, told HRNJ-Uganda.
“We are witnessing a pattern of police attacks against journalists during demonstrations. So we realize that there is a deliberate move to silence the media from documenting their brutal acts committed against demonstrators who are expressing their grievances thereby denying the people their rights to be heard. These attacks also violate media rights and freedom as prescribed in the Constitution, regional and international treaties.” noted the Programme Coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
HRNJ-Uganda, strongly appeals to the Police Professional Standard Unit (PSU) to make public the findings of all the previous cases of violations against journalists filed with them as they embark on investigating these new cases which are equally important. This backlog must be cleared as soon as possible so as to expedite justice.