ARTICLE 19 is concerned with the increased attacks on journalists as Uganda prepares for the February 2016 elections. We call upon the government to hold policemen who have attacked journalists accountable, and to ensure that rights of journalists are protected.
“In less than two months, three journalists have been shot by police while covering political events. It is regrettable no investigations have been conducted into the violations, though it appears that the perpetrators are known,” said Henry Maina, Regional Director, Eastern Africa.
On 16 November, Isaac Kugonza, a journalist for Delta TV was shot in the head by police, and rushed to Mulago National Referral hospital in critical condition. The journalist was covering the arrest of Capital City’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago.
Kugonza’s video camera was also damaged as the police fired teargas as well as both rubber and live bullets, aiming to to disperse Lukwago’s supporters who were opposed to the police’s attempt to block him from walking to the Electoral Commission headquarters in Kampala. Lukwago was on his way to return his Mayoral nominations papers, despite an earlier move by the Commission to adjourn the nomination process.
On 15 October, police shot and injured Ivan Vincent Mukisa, Radio One correspondent, as he was covering an altercation between police and supporters of Dr. Kizza Besigye, who is the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential flag bearer for the 2016 general elections.
The same day, police arrested Alfred Ochwo, a journalist working with The Observer newspaper, photographing the arrest of opposition politician, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda at his home in Busiika, Kira Town Council in Wakiso District. Ochwo was detained for four hours before being released without having been charged, or having recorded a statement.
Matovu Enock of NTV was shot on 29 October while covering an incident of alleged vote-rigging during the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party elections at Bulera police station in Mityana district. He was admitted to hospital with serious injuries. Two days earlier, Haruna Mugerwa (New Vision Group) had been also assaulted while covering NRM primaries at Mbirizzi trading center.
These attacks, according to ARTICLE 19 partners in Uganda, escalated barely a day after the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura warned that he would ‘deal with’ media houses which cover opposition-related political activities.
ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Uganda police to stop attacks on the journalists. It is the right of journalists, as well good journalistic practice, for them to cover all sides of the political debate. During political campaigns, the media have a duty to inform the public on the available political parties, candidates and matters relevant to the election in order for them to make informed choices.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Government to undertake measures to protect journalists from harassment and attack, and ensure that that thorough, independent, and credible investigations and prosecutions are carried out where they do occur.