The Uganda Police Force has come under the spotlight for assaulting and interfering with the rights of journalists to cover the Presidential campaigns.
The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), a media training agency based in Bbunga, Kampala said that police officers had been implicated in several recent incidents in which journalists have either been assaulted, injured or obstructed while doing their job of covering different presidential candidates.
ACME says at least six journalists have been attacked, injured, and arrested as they covered 2021 election related events.
Dr. Peter Mwesige the Executive Director of ACME said: “There have been several incidents of police brutality against journalists since the nomination of presidential candidates just ten days ago.
“On 3 November 2020, journalists from different media houses covering a procession by Presidential Candidate Robert Kyagulanyi prior to his nomination were pepper sprayed in Nakawa, enroute to the nomination grounds in Kyambogo.
On the same day, Vision Group journalist Ronald Kakooza was arrested while covering events at the FDC head office in Najjanankumbi in a build-up to the nomination of their candidate by the electoral commission.
“Two days later, on November 5 2020, journalist and film maker Moses Bwayo was shot in the face by a rubber bullet while filming NUP party president, Robert Kyagulanyi, who was heading to the party headquarters in Kamwokya from Kibuli mosque.
ACME’s statement comes in the wake of a recent attack on the NBS team that was covering the campaign of National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Lira, on November 12, by unidentified goons.
Although Police said it is yet to identify the attackers on the NBS team, Mwesige said this affront on the media deserves to be condemned by everyone including presidential candidates.
He described the affront on the media as an attack on the rights of the voters to make informed decisions before they cast their votes.
“We condemn these acts of violence against journalists in the strongest terms, irrespective of who the perpetuator is, said Dr. Peter Mwesige, and added: “These actions are dampening the free flow of information which is very vital in informing voters during this election period,” he added.
ACME also called on the police and other security agencies to provide the necessary security for journalists covering the candidates.
On Thursday, 12 November 2020, the NBS team led by journalists Daniel Lutaaya and Thomas Kitimbo who were covering National Unity Platform’s presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Lira, were attacked by thugs, their property stolen (which included a laptop, camera chargers and phones, and car damaged.
Speaking to NBS Media Round Table on Friday morning, Lutaaya revealed that upon arrival in Lira town, they were confronted by youth who had blockaded the road with burning tyres and stones.
“Whatever the case, it should be roundly condemned by all, including the presidential candidates who are now traversing the country canvassing for votes,” said Mwesige.