Faced with growing pressure over his endorsement of brutality against journalists, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martin Okoth Ochola, has backtracked on his statements, and is now looking at opening a new page with members of the fourth estate.
Appearing before Parliament’s committee on Defense and Internal affairs, the chief policeman said that he made the statements in jest only that it was blown out of proportion.
“It was a joke,” Ochola told the MPs a day after journalists appeared before another parliamentary committee investigating the human rights violations that characterised the 2021 general elections, and urged the MPs to hold the top cop accountable for all the attacks against journalists.
The Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-U) told the probe committee that because of Ochola’s statement, there was an increase in cases against journalists with 174 cases of human rights violations against journalists recorded during the electoral process.
When journalists in January sought Ochola’s attention, the policeboss who was addressing a joint security press conference said that security agencies will continue beating “for their own good.”
“On the contrary, it is the media targeting security. It is portraying security as brutal and siding with the government. When we tell a journalist, don’t go there and you insist on going where there is danger, we shall beat you for your own safety. I have no apology,” Ochola said then.
Before the Defence and Internal affairs committee on Thursday afternoon, Ochola fielded questions from MPs who tasked him to justify the statement.
Gilbert Olanya (Kilak South) said that the statement sent police personnel on rampage and opened another wave of brutality against another unarmed and nonconfrontational group in the line of duty.
However, Ochola told the committee that the matter was blown out of proportion, telling the lawmakers of his “outstanding record on upholding human rights and the rule of law,” adding that the infamous attack on journalists at the offices of the UN Human rights offices as former presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi delivered a petition, was never orchestrated by the police.
Meanwhile Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP tasked the Minister of Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania to explain the continued arrest of supporters of the National Unity Platform, many of whim, he said, were held in unknown places but Kania asked members to present the names of the missing persons so that security can confirm.
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