By Our Reporter
The Police in Lira are on the spot for allegedly assaulting six journalists who were covering a standoff between security forces and the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu at Ngeta in Lira district that lasted for more than eight hours.
The police, reinforced by the army blocked Kyagulanyi from proceeding to Alebtong and Otuke districts for his scheduled campaign meetings.
Under the cover of darkness, the police descended on journalists, assaulted and injured at least six of them. Among the injured journalists is, David Tamale (Bukedde TV), Sessanga Batte (BBS TV), John Cliff Wamala (NTV), Moses Waiswa (Busoga One FM), Ronald Mugenyi (Ghetto Media), and Jonan Atusingwize of Pearl FM.
“We were covering a standoff between Bobi Wine and police. Suddenly, masked policemen dressed in the counter-terrorism police uniform started beating us. Their uniforms had no name tags, their faces were covered and we could only see their eyes. I was beaten with a baton on the head, left elbow, and the right hand,” said Ssessanga.
Contacted, the North Kyoga police spokesperson James Ekaju feigned ignorance of the incident.
“I am not aware of anybody who was assaulted, let me find out from those who were at the scene,” Ekaju said.
Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda (HNRJ-U) in a statement condemned the attack on journalists wondering why the police would attack a group well known within the security circles as having been assigned by its employers to follow Kyagulanyi’s presidential campaign trail.
“They were all severely affected as a resulted of what is said to be deliberate and targeted beatings by the security forces. There is a very worrying trend of attacks on journalists covering opposition candidates at the presidential and parliamentary levels. The security has in some cases blocked hosting of the candidates or switching off radio stations in which they are being hosted. Some journalists and editors have lost their jobs for allegedly sympathizing with the opposition in their news stories,” Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-U executive director said.
This comes at a time when the Media Council of Uganda has directed all foreign and local journalists and media practitioners to pay Shs 200,000 for accreditation to cover the 2021 general elections and other state events.
The council gave one week within which journalists have to apply for accreditation a move that has attracted criticism especially over the timing in the middle of an election, and in terms of inadequate time as well as failure to consult widely with key media actors.
“Journalists must not be punished for doing their work. We condemn the actions of police officers beating up journalists in the line of duty. Journalists are the eyes and ears of the public and should not be punished for informing people about what’s happening within the campaign trails of all candidates. We appeal to the police leadership to ensure the safety of all journalists and also prevail over its errant officers,” Ssempala said.