Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Uganda: Ten reporters injured by security forces while covering opposition leader’s return

Ten Ugandan and foreign journalists were physically attacked by soldiers on May 12 while covering opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s return to Uganda from Kenya, where he was treated for injuries received when the security forces used force to disperse an opposition demonstration in Kampala in April, according to Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

The violence, which took place as President Yoweri Museveni was being sworn in for a fourth term, was the latest round in a campaign to gag the media that has been waged ever since Museveni’s election victory in February and the start of “walk-to-work” demonstrations in April.

“We condemn violence against journalists who are just doing their job as reporters,” RSF said. “The opposition leader’s return to Kampala was a major political event that had to be covered for the Ugandan public. The security forces should not confuse an event’s participants with the journalists who are just observing it. The election campaign in late 2010 and early 2011 was already fraught for reporters. The situation is now worse, with demonstrations that are dangerous to cover.”

It added: “We urge the authorities to see reason. President Museveni’s government must put a stop to these press freedom violations. We also call on the international community to take a firmer line with the government and insist that it guarantee the safety of journalists and respect diversity of opinion.”

"Ugandan authorities are becoming increasingly hostile toward the press, even accusing the media of siding with the opposition," Tom Rhodes, East Africa Consultant with New York-based press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said. "The government must thoroughly investigate these brutal attacks against the press and ensure all equipment confiscated from journalists during the attacks is returned immediately."

A group of soldiers aboard a vehicle with the licence number H4DF 632 assaulted journalists covering Besigye’s arrival, accusing them of photographing soldiers beating up civilians. Several reporters, including Stephen Otage of the Daily Monitor, had their equipment confiscated. Photos taken by foreign journalists were immediately deleted by the security forces.

One of the victims told RSF that most of the journalists who were attacked by police or soldiers had shown their press ID. That did not stop them being beaten.

Ten journalists were injured. They were Mercy Nalugo (Daily Monitor), Barbra Among (Vision Group), Rogers Kibirige (Vision Group), Kigongo Ssebalamu (Vision Group), Robert Mutebi (Vision Group), Michael Kakumirizi (Red Pepper), Peacock Kaweesa (Red Pepper), Eddie Ssejjoba (Vision Group), Raymond Ayebare (The Razor) and Simon Njala Kaggwa (Akaboozi Radio).

Ssejjoba and Mutebi were treated in a private hospital in Kampala. Ayebare was evacuated in an ambulance, bleeding profusely from a blow to the head.

The violence came just two days after President Museveni lambasted some news media at a news conference, accusing them of supporting the demonstrations against food and gasoline price hikes that have been taking place since mid-April.

Journalists who RSF preferred not to identify have been forced to go into hiding in the past month after receiving death threats.

William Ntege, a journalist with Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS), was briefly detained while covering an opposition parliamentarian’s arrest on May 2. Christine Nabatanzi of Radio Simba was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet fired by riot police while covering an opposition Democratic Party demonstration the same day.

Date posted: May 13, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 82