BRUTALITY: Battered Journalists Narrate Ordeal Under UPDF Attack

Daily Monitor’s Irene Abalo (centre) is helped by the publication’s acting managing editor (Dailies), Mr Tabu Butagira (right) and another collegue at International Diagnostic Centre where she got treatment after she was beaten by the military police on February 17, 2021. PHOTO.MONITOR

By Our Reporter

KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA-Dozens of soldiers yesterday beat up and injured about half-a-dozen journalists in Kampala in what the victims said was a brazen, unprovoked broad-day assault.
The attack, which the Uganda Editors’ Guild board member, Mr Alex Atuhaire, described as “intentional organised move against journalists”, and ironically happened near the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) where Opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, went to deliver a petition about a spate of abductions and disappearances of his supporters.
Mr Atuhaire said the Editors’ Guild is exploring the possibility of prosecuting the errant officers individually.

Mr Daniel Kalinaki, the general manager Editorial, NMG-Uganda, said:
“The security agencies continue to operate without empathy, regard to human rights or even humanity. With these incessant attacks on journalists, as well as other citizens, it is hard to see the difference between this and the [former presidents Apollo Milton] Obote and [Idi] Amin governments. Uganda and Ugandans deserve better.”
The alleged assaults, which the UPDF spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, yesterday regretted in a tweet, has been condemned across the board.

Brig Byekwaso claimed, falsely, that the affected journalists, some of whom wore corporate tops or press jackets, were “non-identifiable”.
“[The] UPDF regrets that some journalists were injured as security carried out its duties,” she said in a tweet.
Dr Peter Mwesige, the executive director of African Centre for Media Excellency (ACME), said the brutality meted out to the journalists was a “deliberate” move by security forces to discourage scrutiny of their actions.

“The one person who can really call off all these unfortunate events is President Museveni,” he noted.
Mr Robert Ssempala, the national coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, said the attack on journalists in the line of duty was unjustified.
“This is a spillover effect of the pronouncement recently made by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) (Martins Okoth-Ochola),” Mr Ssempala said, referring to the January 8, 2021 statement by the IGP that security forces were beating journalists “for their own safety”.

Mr Ochola said then that the beating would continue.
Ms Emilly Maractho, the head of the Journalism Department at Uganda Christian University, called for a robust engagement with security forces and the sector regulator to “discuss how journalists operate and the role they play”.
In a comment before Brig Byekwaso tweeted the army’s regret, deputy Defence spokesman, Lt Col Deo Akiiki, said video clips of the purported attacks on journalists that he watched were inconclusive about the genesis of the crackdown on journalists.

Irene Abalo, Daily Monitor

Ms Irene Abalo, a reporter with NMG-Uganda, writhed at the International Diagnostic Centre (IDC) Hospital on Yusuf Lule Road in Kampala yesterday where she was rushed after soldiers injured her during a crackdown on journalists.
Health workers had to cut a strap of her shoes to remove her swollen foot. A scan showed bleeding under the skin in the ankle area, which she said a female UPDF soldier hit repeatedly during a broad-day attack.

Ms Abalo said the commotion started when a military police vehicle knocked a vehicle belonging to a one Nyeko, a supporter of the National Unity Platform (NUP). The army allegedly broke a window of the Opposition supporter’s vehicle, although the man was not injured.
Ms Abalo said journalists didn’t anticipate that security forces would charge at them because they had obeyed all the orders that police issued.

She said they had not provoked the soldiers and were surprised when they descended on them without warning, beating everyone indiscriminately with batons. The team fled, but her energy was sapped after a short sprint.
“I got tired and couldn’t run anymore. I asked the Nation Television (NTV)-Uganda driver to slow down and I jumped into the [slow] moving car, but the female military officer charged at me, pulled the door of the car open and she started hitting my ankle.”

Cliff Wamala, NTV-Uganda  

Mr Cliff Wamala, a reporter with NTV-Uganda, says while on Prince Charles Drive in Kololo, police ordered them to stand behind the security barrier. They complied.
However, the soldiers unexpectedly pounced on him and others, clobbering Mr Wamala with what he said was a metallic baton. He sustained a deep incision to the back of his head, which was stitched at International Diagnostic Centre (IDC) Hospital on Yusuf Lule Road in Kampala yesterday afternoon.

Wycliff Wamala showing his wounds

“He (soldier who beat Wamala) had a unique baton that was metallic. He hit me with his metallic baton at the back of my head three times. I touched the back of my head and my hands were all covered in blood; that’s when I realised I was severely beaten,” Mr Wamala, who was wearing a grey NTV press jacket and slinging the Uganda Media Council-issued accreditation card, said.

Joseph Sabiiti, NBS TV

Mr Joseph Sabiiti, a reporter and talk show host with Nile Broadcasting Services (NBS) television, limped down the stairs at the station’s headquarters in Naguru, Kampala.
He supported himself against the guard rails and hopped on the level ground, clenching his teeth in pain.
Mr Sabiiti said they had earlier in the day encountered a number of road blocks on their way to the UN offices in Kololo, but there was no major confrontation from security forces or signs of anything ominous.

The chaos near the UN offices in Kololo started about 30 minutes after journalists had sheltered under a tree behind the police security barrier as they waited for former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and team to emerge from their meeting with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). Two military patrol cars drove past them, the journalist said, and soldiers who jumped off with batons started clobbering them.

“He (the commander) ordered [that], ‘beat them’, and they started [beating us]. I could identify the commander who ordered our beating [because he is] the same officer who commanded the beating of  journalists [during Bobi’s campaigns] in Kalangala,” he said.

Rashida Nakaayi, Galaxy FM

Ms Rashida Nakaayi works with Galaxy FM radio in Kampala. She said when soldiers attacked them, she quickly handed her hand bag to a colleague so that she could escape with it.
“They (soldiers) jumped off the car and started beating us. We ran and one of the guys (a friend) asked to carry my hand bag, notebook, including my phone so I could run faster. I ran, fell down and injured my leg (knee)” Ms Nakayi said.
After the fall, she could not run any longer and surrendered to her tormentors.
Her knee was visibly swollen when she lay on the hospital bed at International Medical Centre in Kampala.

Rashida Nakaayi, Galaxy FM

 Timothy Murungi, Vision Group

Mr Timothy Murungi, a photojournalist with Vision Group, publisher of the New Vision newspaper, said there were a couple of roadblocks on the way from Kamwokya to Kololo UN offices, but all was calm.
At Kololo, Mr Murungi said they figured it was one of those closed-door meeting so they waited behind the police security line for Mr Kyagulanyi.

About an hour later, two military police cars drove in.
Suddenly, military police officers aboard the vehicles charged at them with batons.

“My shoe fell off, and that’s the moment I slowed down and this man (a soldier) hit me on the head. I didn’t realise that it was anything until I saw blood on my shirt and I was too weak to keep moving. I just fell down and gave up,” he narrated.
Blood oozing from a cut on the back of  Mr Murungi’s head dripped down and caked on his shirt collar.-

Source Daily Monitor

Shift Media News

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