At least seven journalists were on February 23 roughed up as they covered local council elections in Kampala, the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) reports.
After being tipped off about vote rigging at a polling station, six TV, radio and photojournalists rushed to the scene only to be beaten up by supporters of one of the candidates in the Kampala mayoral race.
In a statement released by HRNJ; “Stick-wielding hooligans linked to the Kampala mayoral candidate of the ruling NRM party Peter Ssematimba have assaulted six journalists at Kakeeka polling station, Rubaga Parish, Lubaga division in Kampala.”
Among the journalists beaten up was Nabazziwa Lydia, a reporter for Bukedde TV who sustained a serious injury on the right ear.
“She was beaten up at super FM Radio owned by the Ruling party candidate Peter Ssematimba where there was a report that pre-ticked ballot papers had been dropped in the toilet where she was roughed up.” The report from HJRN says.
Nixon Bbaale a cameraman with Channel 44 survived with a big cut on his head while covering the scuffle at the same polling station. He is currently admitted at Mengo hospital in critical condition.
Brian Nsimbe also a reporter with Channel 44 was assaulted and injured on the arm. He was admitted at Mengo hospital and later discharged.
Nabukeera Florence a reporter with Bukedde FM was also violently beaten. She was later admitted at Rubaga Hospital.
Namatumbwe Christine a reporter and Luganda news anchor at Metro FM was also roughed up and sustained several injuries on the right arm. “Her recorder, mobile phone and the hand bag were all stolen. She was rushed to Rubaga hospital for medical treatment and later discharged,” the report adds.
The < Metro Fm editor Hasfa Namuli told HRNJ that by the time of attack, Namatumbwe was reporting live from the polling station about the scuffle between National Resistance Movement-Organization’s candidate Peter Ssematimba and Ssuubi’s candidate Erias Lukwago.
“I found her at the Lubaga hospital in severe pain where she was admitted following injuries on her right arm” said Namuli
Another journalist, Jane Anyango a senior reporter with Uganda Broadcasting Corporation was injured on the face, sustained injuries on the leg and has bruises on the buttocks .
HRNJ-Uganda has also recorded another case where four journalists including Steven Mbidde a journalist with KFM and Michael Kigozi a presenter and reporter with Radio One as well as two female journalists from Bukedde TV were mobbed by stick-wielding men at Super Fm but police rescued them before the situation had gone out of hand.
In another separate incident, a Red Pepper photojournalist Arinaitwe George Sidel was beaten up by supporters of political contestant over taking photos without their permission.
The supporters of Kampala central division chairman Godfrey Amooti Nyakana beat up Arinaitwe at 9:30am at Railway Park polling station along Jinja road, Kampala where he had gone to take pictures after being told of election irregularities.
“I started taking photos and immediately a gang of people came, lifted me up and took me to Nyakana who immediately grabbed my camera. I pleaded to him to release my camera but instead his bouncers boxed me in the face and I fell down” Arinaitwe narrated.
During the just concluded presidential and parliamentary election on February 18, Julius Odeke a journalist with the Red Pepper and The Razor was shot in the ribs and Gerald Mutembu, a journalist with WBS TV was mobbed up and boxed and his lips shattered.
“We are worried about the escalating cases of violence against journalists in Uganda. This is the highest number of victims we have received since the beginning of electoral process in November in 2010 committed in a day” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
The assault on journalists occurred in the presence of armed police constables who only looked on according to HRNJ.