Ugandan military arrest, beat journalists

Security forces in Uganda have been accused of beating and detaining  four journalists covering protests in the capital, Kampala early this week.

The arrested journalists include Reuters photographer James Akena, Alfred Ochwo, a photojournalist with the privately owned The Observer newspaper, and NTV journalists Ronald Galiwango and Juma Kirya.

The four journalists were arrested while covering protests in Kampala to demand the release of lawmakers, including opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, who were arrested last week in connection to unrest in the northern town of Arua on August 13, during which President Yoweri Museveni’s convoy was reportedly stoned.

Footage of the attack on Akena, broadcast on local stations and shared on social media, show at least two Ugandan military officers beating the journalist with long wooden sticks, even after he dropped to his knees. The soldiers then transported Akena to Kampala Central Police Station where he was detained for several hours. Akena was later released following protest from other journalists, but a doctor’s report now indicates that the journalist suffered a fractured index finger and a broken ring finger on his left hand, as well as several injuries to his head and back.

Ochwo, a second journalist, said he was returning to his newspaper’s office after photographing protests when about seven soldiers confronted him. He was also beaten with wooden sticks and his camera was damaged by the officers. He said he was put in a police pick-up truck, where two other journalists, the NTV’s Galiwango and Kirya, were already being held. The journalists say the security personnel appeared to be going after anyone recording the protests. They said that three more people who had been recording and taking pictures with their phones were equally arrested and put into the truck with them.The journalists say the soldiers also used pliers to pinch and pull their flesh, leaving several wounds on their shoulders and backs.

The journalists were then taken to the Kampala Central Police Station where they were detained for several hours and forced to delete pictures and footage from their cameras. 

In an August 22 blog post, President Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, condemned the actions of security forces beating journalists, but added that “the journalists working for foreign interests or for our own local parasites tell lies.” On August 19, the president published a blog post about the recent political unrest in which he referred to news outlets including Monitor and NTV as “fake news generators.”

“President Museveni’s public disdain for the news media is especially alarming given the ongoing crackdown by police and military personnel on journalists working to keep Uganda’s public informed,” said Muthoki Mumo of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 

In a statement circulated on Twitter, army spokesperson Richard Karemire said the military was displeased over the “unprofessional conduct of soldiers who molested some journalists.” He added that the Chief of Defense Forces has ordered the arrest and punishment of those involved had been ordered. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *