URGENT CALL FOR SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS COVERING THE CAMPAIGN TO CURB COVID-19 IN UGANDA.

HRNJ-Uganda is deeply saddened by the rampant attacks against journalists in the line of duty ever since the President’s directives on curbing COVID-19  on 18th March 2020. At least seven journalists in different parts of the country have been assaulted leaving them with injuries and admitted to medical centers.

Julius Ocungi, the Uganda Radio Network (URN) Bureau Chief in Kitgum district was allegedly assaulted by policemen attached to Kitgum Central Police Station. Ocungi was covering the operation of closing down bars by the Kitgum Resident District Commissioner (RDC) William Komakech and police as part of President Museveni’ directives to curb the spread of COVID-19. Ocungi sustained injuries on the left eye, thighs, and the right ankle. His efforts to open up a case proved futile as police officers in the area were not willing to do so.

On 26th March 2020, Richard Odongo, a Radio Wa journalist based in Oyam district was allegedly assaulted by the defence secretary of Acini village Menye sub-county Opio Fedil while covering a story about the implementation of the presidential directive barring social gatherings of more than ten people. The meeting was convened by a group of people claiming to be NRM cadres in Acini village, Myene sub-county in Oyam district.

On  30th March 2020, Okello Denis a production manager and sports analyst on Radio APAC was badly beaten by plain-clothed men presumed to be army officers in front of the radio station just near reception. The men had just chased away locals from a bar that is near the radio station. Okello was saved by the APAC District Resident District Commissioner Beatrice Akello who was called by the station manager Ongom Kenneth. He sustained serious head injuries and was admitted at Florence Nightingale hospital in APAC district, and discharged on 2 April 2020 and is still undergoing treatment.

While on 31st March 2020, Daniel Mwesigwa, an NTV correspondent in Mukono district was allegedly assaulted by the bodyguard of Mukono RDC Mr. Bamwine Fred. Daniel alongside nine other journalists had gone to the RDC’ office to seek permission to go about their work during the lockdown period. Daniel sustained injuries around the neck and the back.

On 1st April 2020, two journalists were assaulted by security officials while reporting stories about the curfew that runs from 7:00 pm to 6:30 am as imposed by the President. Perezi Rumanzi, a Daily Monitor correspondent in Ntungamo district was allegedly assaulted by security personnel in the district while covering a story about implementation of the curfew. He was rushed to a nearby health center for treatment.

On the same day, Dalton Iga, a Radio Simba correspondent in Mukono district was allegedly assaulted by the Local Defense Unit (LDU)personnel as he was reporting to the Newsroom the response of the people to the curfew in Mukono district. He presented his work Identity Card but they went ahead to assault him. He lost 70,000/ and his phone during the attack.

On 2nd April 2020, David Musisi Kanyankole a Bukedde TV correspondent in Mukono was brutally assaulted at his home in Namayuba, at about 6:30 local time by the OC Buzira Njovu Police, Noor Musoke. Musisi is still admitted to Elena Medical Center in Kisoga. Musoke has since been arrested over assault.

HRNJ-Uganda calls on the president to prevail over the situation in order to enforce the safety of Journalists who have so far done an excellent job in disseminating information and educating the masses about the Coronavirus pandemic and the campaign to curb it’s spread. We also urge Journalists to ensure their safety from contracting the disease while in the line of duty. Safety equipment such as face masks and sanitizers should be availed to all Journalists by their media houses in collaboration with the government.” Said the HRNJ-UGANDA Executive Director, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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