Gen. David Muhoozi the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) has ordered the immediate arrest of Uganda Peoples Defense Forces personnel who assaulted journalists and confiscated their equipment as they covered protests in Kampala on Monday. Policemen and Military Police battered Mr James Akena, a photographer working for the foreign news agency Reuters. Akena was beaten by soldiers, arrested and detained for several hours and had his equipment confiscated.
The army also arrested two NTV journalists Juma Kirya and Ronald Galiwango and as well as Observer photographer Alfred Ochwo who was too roughed up and taken to an unknown detention centre. Other journalists working for various media agencies including this reporter were put on gunpoint by UPDF officers and ordered to delete footage from their cameras and phones of soldiers beating protesters in Katwe and Kampala.
Journalist and human rights bodies including African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) an organisation that occupies the space between the media industry and academic institutions that train journalists have since fated the continuing attacks on, arrests and detention of journalists by security officers
“We urge you to respect the constitutional and international obligations that bind Uganda to “recognise, respect, uphold, promote and protect freedom of expression, including press freedom,” ACME called for action.
However, the army leadership in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, by Brig. Richard Karemire, the defence spokesperson condemned the ill-treatment of journalists by and revealed the force has resolved to punish the officers over unprofessional conduct.
“Attention has been brought to the leadership of the UPDF about the unprofessional conduct of soldiers who molested some journalists while deployed on a joint operation in the city on Monday, August 20 2018.”
“UPDF whishes to express its displeasure over such behaviour by those individuals and a result, the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) has ordered for their punishment.”
“While we expressing apologies and sympathies to the individuals on whom pain was inflicted, we wish to reiterate our strong commitment to maintain a strong partnership with media fraternity, in the due course of exercising all our core functions as laid out in the constitution. Harassment of journalists is on the rise in Uganda, and freedom of speech is under threat, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.
Last week on in Arua, Various media houses including NTV and NBS televisions reported that their journalists went missing they were reporting live about the death of MP Robert Kyagulanyi’s driver who was shot dead. NTV’s Herbert Zziwa and cameraman Ronnie Muwanga, John Kibalizi for NBS television were badly beaten by security forces and their equipment confiscated.
Journalists continue to be harassed and repressive laws which stifle free speech continue to be enacted and maintained across Uganda. These blatant threats against journalists as well as other overt practices are indeed a blight on freedom of the press and the media.
Last year, journalists who were marching to commemorate the World press freedom day were badly beaten before being arrested by police in the city centre. On most of these and many other occasions that have gone unreported by the media, police has walked away with impunity. Various reports by human rights activists have for many years ranked security forces as the number one violators of human rights.