Political Gang Attacks Ugandan Journalist

Ugandan journalist Damba Wiziri has been attacked twice while covering a recent national parliamentary election in the Sheema Municipality in Uganda.

Damba Wiziri works for the majority state-owned Vision Group’s print, television, and online platforms. A report from Uganda’s Human Rights Network for Journalists confirmed that Wiziri was attacked while covering a demonstration by members of an opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). FDC members were protesting the parliamentary election results and Wiziri was photographing the demonstrators while riding a boda boda, a motorcycle taxi, when an attacker pulled him from the back of the boda boda and dragged him into the nearby offices of a local non-governmental organization, the Integrated Community Based Initiatives (ICOBI).

The journalist reported that he was taken inside the ICOBI office building by four men who punched him, kicked him, and attempted to strangle him. The attackers also confiscated his camera, bag, and phone, he said, noting that police officers, including the Sheema District Police Commander Hillary Mukiza, watched the assault but did not intervene to stop the attackers.

Uganda’s police spokesperson, Emilian Kayima denies the police were present during the attack on the journalist, but also said that they are investigating reports on the assault and the alleged claim that the police had failed to act on the case once the attackers were initially identified.

ICOBI, a health-focused non-governmental organization is associated with Uganda’s science minister, Elioda Tumwesigye who was announced winner of the Sheema parliamentary election.

Tumwesigye denies that ICOBI’s employees were involved in the attack against the journalist, but said a contracted security guard took the journalist’s camera amidst a scuffle after protesters tried to storm the ICOBI offices.

Tumwesigye said that the journalist’s assault claims were exaggerated to hurt his reputation and that of ICOBI.

A lawyer representing the Vision Group, Mercy Oyeki says the journalist’s phone and bag had been returned but police continue to hold his camera as evidence.

CPJ’s Africa Representative, Muthoki Mumo has called on Ugandan police to “expedite investigations into the attacks on journalist Damba Wiziri and hold those responsible to account.”

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