Police brutalises 107 journalists, says report


Uganda continues to congregate laws that undermine the enjoyment of media freedom and freedom of expression, according to Uganda Human Rights Network.

Its media legal regime is restrictive in spite of her constitutional guarantees to freedom of the press and being a state party and signatory to international treaties and conventions.

A total of 143 cases were documented by HRNJ-Uganda in the year 2015.

For accountability and justice to reign, the sources of these violations and abuses against journalists must be known-either as individual officers or government entities in general.

In 2015 over 100 journalists fell victim of police brutality and others incapacitated as it quelled and dispersed peaceful demonstrations and assemblies.

Media gagging continues to reign through the draconian provisions of sectarianism, defamation under the Penal Code Act, and the Press and Journalist Act (2000) all of which have restraining provisions.

Uganda Police Force topped the list of perpetrators in the year 2015 with 107 cases (75%), followed by the community/ private individuals with 25 cases (17%), the RDCs came in third position with 5 cases (3%), while the media houses (Employers) came 4th with three cases (2%).

The other perpetrators included the Uganda Prisons Services, Uganda People’s Defence Forces and private security guards with one case against each of them respectively (1%).

Police brutality against journalists

The Uganda Police Force remains the principal violator of media freedoms and rights of journalists in Uganda.

The 107 cases committed by police in 2015 as compared to 40 in 2014 represented an increment in police violations by over 100%.

The violations include assault, inhumane treatment, detention and release without charge.

Journalists were brutally assaulted, their cameras confiscated and arrested for taking photos of police using extreme force on suspects especially during public meetings and demonstrations.

A WBS TV reporter, Andrew Lwanga, was brutally assaulted and incapacitated by a senior police officer Joram Mwesigye, the former DPC of Old Kampala Police division, while three journalists on duty were shot and wounded in Jinja, Mityana and Wakaliga in Kampala.

Although most of the violent attacks by police were dismissed by the police leadership as mere actions of individual officers, no effective investigations were carried out to punish the said perpetrators.

The police also dubbed the media as oppositional leaning and as thus deserving what they were getting.

In October 2015, the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura warned journalists of dire consequences for giving live coverage to opposition politicians.

He said that police would crack down on journalists who he accused of turning into political activists by giving live coverage to political opposition events.

Twenty five (25) cases were registered from different regions and investigated by HRNJ-Uganda in which journalists were targeted by individuals and groups more especially during demonstrations.

Journalists were also arrested and detained on orders of RDCs for being critical of the President or Presidential initiatives.

HRNJ-Uganda documented five (5) cases of this nature from across the country.

Self-censorship increased among journalists working for media houses owned by politicians or businessmen affiliated more particularly to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Journalists hosting programs on governance issues fell victim of witch-hunt and summary dismissal for hosting political opposition leaders or their sympathizers.

The other perpetrators including the Uganda Prisons Services, Uganda People’s Defence Forces and private security guards are believed to have improved as compared to other players above.

UPDF saved two journalists working for the Red Pepper and TV West in Mbarara Rwizi who were being beaten by NRM flag bearer contestants led by one Charles Ngabirano.

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