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CSOs call for action on journalists’ tormentors

WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 6 2019

 Police officers move to arrest journalists as the latter moved to petition the Inspector General of Police over brutality in Kampala on Monday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

In Summary

  • Background. This comes after several journalists were beaten up by police on Monday in a peaceful march against assault by security agencies during the protests at Makerere University.
  • At Makerere University last week, police assaulted many journalists who were covering the student protests challenging the 15 per cent increment on tuition.

By JALIRA NAMYALO

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have asked government to prosecute police officers who brutalised journalists.

Two CSOs, the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) and the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), in separate statements, demanded that the rights and freedoms of journalists be restored by expeditiously carrying out an inquiry into the abuses meted out on them.

Ms Charity Ahimbisibwe, the head of communication and advocacy at CCEDU, asked the government to reaffirm its commitment to defend the rights of journalists.
“CCEDU demands that all police officers, who engage in acts of brutalising journalists, be subjected to the due-course of the law immediately. The State should not be seen to condone human rights abuses, when there is a legal regime to curtail abuses,” she said in a statement.

Ms Ahimbisibwe asked the authorities to enforce the recently enacted Human Rights Enforcement Act to ensure personal liability of police officers who violated the rights of Ugandans.

On March 31, President Museveni assented to the Human Rights Enforcement Act, 2019, which guarantees the entrenchment of human rights in the way the Uganda Police Force enforce law and order.

Mr Robert Ssempala, the executive director of HRNJ, said in a statement that the police on Monday arrested a number of journalists who were delivering a petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to protest the continued harassment by the force.

He said the leader of Uganda Parliamentary Press Association Mr Moses Mulondo, Mr Bashir Kazibwe, the president of Uganda Journalists Association; Abubaker Lubowa, Moses Bayola, Mohamad Ssendegeya, Siraje Kiberu, Alex Esagala and Isaac Ssemakadde, one of the journalist’s lawyers, were arrested while more than 20 others were teargased, assaulted and their clothes torn in a scuffle that lasted hours in the city centre.

The petition was eventually handed to senior police officers; Mr Asan Kasingye, Mr Abas Byakagaba and Mr Asuman Mugenyi, who represented the IGP.

At Makerere University last week, police assaulted many journalists who were covering the student protests challenging the 15 per cent increment on tuition.
“No action had been taken against the errant police officers hence the decision by the journalists’ leaders to petition the police force,” Mr Ssempala said.