Journalists Unite against Brutal Security Forces

At about 11:30am, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Chief Political Commissar, Brig. Henry Matsiko and the UPDF spokeswoman, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso arrived at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala to address journalists about the upcoming activities to mark the army’s  40th anniversary.

They were welcomed by demands for an apology over the continued brutalising of journalists by the security forces.

With none of the officers willing to offer the apology, the journalists agree to walk out of the press briefing in protest of the continued brutality.

The walk-out followed Sunday’s incident in Masaka where three journalists were injured while covering National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu campaigns.

They include Ashraf Kasirye who works for Ghetto TV, Ali Mivule of NTV and Daniel Lutaaya of NBS TV.

Matsiko tried to calm the journalists, calling on the security and the press to exercise professionalism, but also warned journalists against being activists and being partisan. This when the journalists resolved to walk out.

“I think this is too much, we can’t tolerate this any more,” said Charles Mugerwa, a journalist with Central Broadcasting Service  (CBS FM).

Abu Lubowa, a photojournalist with Daily Monitor demanded the arrest of all the officers involved in brutalizing the journalists. He wondered why those journalists that cover activities of the opposition are targeted by the state.

“When you cover President Museveni and activities of the NRM [National Resistance Movement], you become a very good journalist, but when you cover the opposition, you become a bad journalist. What should we do?”  Lubowa wondered.

As they walked out of the Uganda Media Centre, they found more than 40 police officers and Local Defense Unit (LDU) personnel deployed outside ready with their mobile prison van.

“What is this they are doing? Do they want to arrest us?” Daily Monitor’s Damalie Mukhaye wondered.

This was moments after Brig. Byekwaso had told the protesting journalists that they were working on reinstating good working relations with the media.

She later claimed that the journalists wanted to beat them thus requiring them to call for backup.

Fred Enanga, the Police Spokesperson said that the police has done all it can to hold those who brutalize journalists to account.

Asked why all of a sudden security was heavily deployed, Enanga said the journalists had started being unruly.

Meanwhile, the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) has also condemned the brutality of journalists.

UPPA President Moses Mulondo labelled the Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola an enemy of Press Freedom and human rights.

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