Eight journalists beaten on orders of military officer at UN Human Rights office

Image by Nicholas Bamulanzeki

At least eight journalists were beaten and injured on Wednesday by security forces deployed at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Kololo, Kampala. 

The journalists were there to cover former Presidential Candidate Robert Kyagulanyi who was delivering a petition to the body to take action against security agencies for violating the rights of some Ugandans through illegal arrests or abductions and detention as well as torture.

They include; NTV Uganda’s Geoffrey Twesigye and John Cliff Wamala, Daily Monitor’s Irene Abalo, New Vision’s Timothy Murungi, and Henry Sekanjako, NBS Television’s Joseph Sabiti and Josephine Makumbi, and Galaxy Radio’s Amina Nalule among others. 

Daily Monitor reports that armed security forces deployed along roads leading to Kololo and blocked everyone except Mr Kyagulanyi and two other NUP officials who were allowed to proceed to UNHRC offices before a military officer ordered soldiers to beat up journalists.

Mr Kyagulanyi had been joined by relatives of several missing persons, who have been allegedly abducted by security operatives during and after the just concluded elections.

“We were waiting for the people who had been allowed in to come back and tell us what had happened, whether their petition was received, and what they had agreed upon with the UN officials,” Wamala said on NTV. 

Adding: “We started interviewing some people who had been blocked but before we could finish the interviews, the military patrol came from the side of the UN office and their commander came straight to me and hit me on the head.” 

Daily Monitor’s Irene Abalo said, “They were just hitting everybody as long as you were not in a police or military uniform.”

In the run-up to the 14 January Presidential and Parliamentary election, several journalists on the campaign trails of Kyagulanyi and FDC’s Patrick Oboi Amuriat were attacked and injured by security forces. 

Since the nomination of Presidential candidates on 4 November 2020, the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) recorded over 20 attacks on journalists. These attacks included assault, arrests, and injuries.

Below is a timeline of the attacks 

3 November 2020: Vision Group journalist Ronald Kakooza arrested while covering events at the Forum for Democratic Change headquarters in Najjanankumbi in a build-up to the nomination of the party’s candidate, Patrick Amuriat, who was also roughed up.

3 November: Journalists from different media houses covering a procession by Mr Kyagulanyi’s supporters pepper-sprayed in Nakawa en route to the nomination grounds in Kyambogo, Kampala.

5 November 2020: Freelance journalist Moses Bwayo shot in the face with a rubber bullet while filming NUP’s Kyagulanyi, who was heading to the party headquarters in Kamwokya.

12 November 2020: NBS TV team led by reporter Daniel Lutaaya and cameraman Thomas Kitimbo attacked by unknown thugs in Lira where they were covering the campaign of National Unity Platform’s presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi. Their property, including a laptop, camera chargers, and phones, was stolen while the branded vehicle they were travelling in was vandalised. 

17 November 2020: FDC Presidential Candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat speaks on switched off radio

18 November 2020: Saif-llah Ashraf Kasirye, a Radio One journalist and Ghetto Tv cameraman, beaten and pepper-sprayed by police while he covering the Bobi Wine arrest

18 November 2020: Sam Balikowa of City FM and Nile TV in Jinja arrested while covering the arrest of Bobi Wine

18 November 2020: John Bosco Mwesigwa sacked from his job at City FM on accusations of writing pro-Opposition stories

27 November 2020: Government deports three CBC News journalists who were in the country to cover events leading up to the 2021 general election

10 December 2020: The Media Council of Uganda (MCU) directs all practising journalists in Uganda to register for accreditation or risk losing the right to cover the 2021 elections and other official events

15 December 2020: UCC asks to Google close at least 14 YouTube channels for allegedly mobilising riots that resulted in the death of more than 50 people and left several injured in November

16 December 2020: Police warn they will block unaccredited journalists from covering political events and campaigns.

27 December 2020: Radio One and Ghetto TV’s Saif-llah Ashraf Kasirye, and NTV’s Ali Mivule injured after police shot at them in Masaka

13 January 2021: Internet is shutdown ahead of general election 

24 January 2021: Police close two radio stations in Jinja, arrest journalists over election results

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