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Uganda Police Pattern Of Brutalizing, Harassing Journalists Continues

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check http://cloud.ca/wp-admin/maint/repair.php geneva;”>This followed the brutal thumping of three innocent journalists as they covered the arrest of Col Kizza Besigye on Thursday morning.

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Daily Monitor’s Isaac Kasamani, WBS TV’s William Ntege and Red Pepper reporter Nicholas Mwesigwa were assaulted by rogue cops at the Kampala Central Police Station, signaling stepped up efforts by police to harass and brutalize journalists.

Kasamani and Ntege had their cameras shattered in the attacks that will strain the relations between police and the Fourth Estate.

It appears police boss Lt Gen Kale Kayihura has flatly fallen short of restraining their men from unnecessarily interfering with the works the media.

Sources at CPS said senior police officers usually mastermind and authorize these attacks before downplaying the dreadful acts as the “mistakes of rogue cops.”

Journalists are urging Kayihura to immediately apologise to the assaulted reporters, replace their shattered cameras and publicly state that such atrocious acts will not reoccur in future.

A peaceful demonstration is also being planned on Kampala streets to protest against police brutality.

Chimpreports Managing Editor, Giles Muhame, said he would support a demonstration, adding “enough is enough.”

“To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit journalists from covering a significant political event is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or knaves. The sooner we all learn to make a decision between disapproval and censorship, the better off society will be. Harassment of journalists cannot get at the real evil, and it is an evil in itself,” said Muhame.

He also quoted Thomas Jefferson: “To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom.”

Muhame said a free press is not a privilege but an organic necessity in any great society.

Police Becoming Number One Enemy Of The Media

Meanwhile, Kasamani told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he was slapped by one policeman while another held him by the neck from behind and pulled him down thus damaging his photo camera.

“I was taking photos of Dr. Besigye as they brought him to CPS when a police officer in a blue uniform stood in front of me to obstruct me and ordered me to stop taking photos. As I pleaded, he slapped me hard on the left cheek with his right hand. As I protected my camera, another officer standing behind me grabbed my neck from behind and pulled me down. I fell and hurt my right elbow. My camera was shuttered beyond repair. I was also blocked from entering CPS to register a case of assault,” said Kasamani.

Kasamani a few months ago reportedly survived a bullet allegedly aimed at him by police while covering walk to work demonstrations early this year.

Police instituted an investigation which ruled out any possible shooting.

Another victim journalist, William Ntege a.k.a Kyuumakyayeesu told HRNJ-Uganda that he was pushed down the stairs of Central Police Station. He rolled down hurting his right leg and in the process his video camera was also shattered.

Ntege told HRNJ-Uganda that he was filming Besigye’s arrest at CPS when he was pushed down the stairs.

“A police man ordered me to leave the place, but as I was explaining to him, another emerged and pushed me and I rolled down the stairs. My video camera was damaged beyond repair in the process. When I went to file a case at the same station, the officers turned me away saying I should return the next day. I cannot recognize the police officers since they had covered their heads,” he told HRNJ-Uganda.

Ntege was recently compensated for his two cameras damaged by the police as he covered opposition related stories. Ironically, the police destroyed the very camera which they compensated him for recently.

When contacted, the police deputy spokesperson, Vincent Ssekatte told HRNJ-Uganda that he did not have the facts yet.

“This is a total violation of media rights and freedom. These habitual acts of violence on media practitioners by the police are a clear indication that impunity is on the rise in this country. This incident must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to book,” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

IN March this year, Police officers beat freelance photographer Edward Echwalu as he was trying to cover the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye at Kira Road Police Station in the capital, Kampala.

Separately, police beat Anatoli Luswata, a reporter for the private weekly Eddobozi, outside Kampala’s Central Police Station.

Both journalists were trying to cover the arrest of Besigye, local journalists told CPJ, but it wasn’t clear until later in the day which police station was holding him.

Opposition supporters were taken into custody after demonstrations against police brutality in Kampala turned into clashes and one policeman died, according to wire reports.

Using batons and a rifle butt, four officers repeatedly beat Echwalu, a photographer for Reuters and the independent weekly Observer, around 4:40 p.m. outside Kira Road Police Station where Besigye was detained, he told CPJ.

When Echwalu tried to explain to the police officers that he was covering the event, they started to beat him. “They did not want to see my ID. They didn’t want to listen,” Echwalu told CPJ. The beating continued until opposition parliamentary members arrived on the scene. Echwalu said he attempted to report the incident to the police station immediately afterwards, but police did not allow him to enter.

Bruised on his right arm and shoulder, Echwalu went to Kampala Hospital for treatment, he said. Echwalu managed to take photographs of the four officers after the incident.

Police officers beat Luswata on his back with batons outside the gate of Kampala’s Central Police Station, local journalists told CPJ. They said they suspect police attacked Luswata because he was the first to arrive at the scene and there were no other reporters to cover the incident.

“Covering opposition party issues is not a crime. Ugandan police must stop arbitrarily attacking journalists simply for doing their job,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “Authorities must immediately identify the officers who carried out these attacks and take disciplinary measures.”

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