Our Ref: 11, 01, 2021
Journalists in Uganda have resolved to report only negative stories involving police until the Inspector General of Police Mr. Martins Okoth Ochola retracts his derogatory claims that the force assault journalists to safeguard them from danger.
Uganda Journalists Association calls on all journalists to report only negative stories on police until IGP withdraws derogatory statement against journalists as one of the mechanisms to fight for our rights.
UJA strongly condemns Ochola’s remarks that were made on Friday 8th January, 2021 and believe it was intended to instill fear among the journalists committed on their noble job.
UJA demands that the IGP makes a public apology for the brutality meted on dozens of journalists covering the electoral process.Suffice to note is that the journalism profession in Uganda is lawful under Articles 29 (1) and 40(2) of the Constitution of Uganda in contrast to an impression created by the Police Chief.
UJA has keenly and closely monitored the electoral process since the nomination of the presidential candidates on 2nd November, for purposes of holding accountable the perpetrators of violations of journalists’ inherent and constitutional rights and freedoms during execution of their duties.
During that period, the following cases of violations by the members of the security forces including the Police and Military personnel were documented ranging from physical attacks, obstruction, threats, damage of the equipment to mention but a few and UJA is currently gathering evidence to pursue individuals involved.I. On November 3rd, 2020, Vision Group journalist, Ronald Kakooza was brutally arrested while covering events at the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) headquarters in Najjanakumbi.II. On the same day, a group of journalists who were covering presidential nominations at Kyambogo were pepper-sprayed by the security personnel.III. On November 5th, Moses Bwayo, a freelance journalist was reportedly shot at with a rubber bullet and sustained facial injuries while covering candidate Robert Kyagulanyi’s journey from Kibuli mosque to his party headquarters in Kamwokya.IV. On November 12th 2020, the NBS TV crew covering Kyagulanyi’s campaign in Northern Uganda was attacked by unknown assailants who vandalised their car and stole their property including a laptop and phones. This team included Daniel Lutaaya and Thomas Kitimbo. V. On November 18th 2020, Ashiraf Kasirye, a journalist with Ghetto Media was brutally arrested and sustained injuries that left him hospitalized.
VI. On the same day, Sam Balikowa, a journalist with City FM and Nile TV, who like Ashiraf, was covering Kyagulanyi’s campaigns in Luuka district, was arrested. VII. Arthur Wadero of Daily Monitor was also attacked on his way home from covering the same event. VIII. On December 12th 2020, David Tamale of Bukedde TV, Ssessanga Batte of BBS TV, John Cliff Wamala of NTV, Moses Waiswa of Busoga One FM, Ronald Mugenyi of Ghetto Media and Jonan Atusingwize of Pearl FM were assaulted by the security personnel as they covered Kyagulanyi’s campaigns in Alebtong District.IX. On December 27th 2020, Ali Mivule of NTV, Daniel Lutaaya and Ashiraf Kasirye were shot at and seriously injured while covering Kyagulanyi’s campaigns at Kyabakuza in Masaka district. Ashiraf is still hospitalised following the life-threatening head injuries that he sustained from an explosive fired at his head. X. On the same day, David Musisi Kalyankolo of Bukedde TV was arrested by the Mukono DPC. He was later released after intervention by the UJA team led by the president Mathias Rukundo.XI. On December 30th, several journalists including Derrick Wandera of Daily Monitor and Culton Scovia of BBS TV were arrested as they took pictures of Kyagulanyi’s arrest in Kalangala. They were both released with no charges but Wandera’s phone was impounded and damaged. XII. On the same day, journalists in Masaka under SOBUJA accused the Masaka RPC Enock Baine of persistent violation of their rights and they vowed to suspend coverage of police activities.XIII. On the same day, (December 30th, 2020), the Deputy IGP Maj.Gen John Lokech issued a statement in which he vowed to enforce the heretical Media Council restrictive orders against election un accredited journalists. 31st December 2020 was the ultimatum for accreditation.XIV. On January 5th 2021, Bruno Aliga, a journalist based in West Nile was abducted on connection to the prevailing political campaign issues in the country.
UJA and other institutions that champion the freedom of the press in Uganda has on a number of occasions critically spoken against them, urging journalists to possibly continue agitating for their rights, a call they have obliged.
Protection of journalists as citizens of this Country and Press freedom by the security agencies is their Constitutional duty, and therefore the IGP should not justify attacks with impunity.In the light of the above, we therefore demand that he retracts his statements with an apology which we feel they are not only unlawful but likely to perpetrate more brutality against journalists if not withdrawn.We call upon human rights champions and institutions including the civil society, international media and all Ugandans to support this cause.
Mathias RukundoPresident (UJA)