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More attacks on journalists during local elections

More attacks on journalists during local elections

Published on Thursday 24 February 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the physical attacks on seven journalists in two separate incidents during yesterday’s municipal and district elections as well as the attacks on two other journalists during 18 February’s general election.

“The violence against journalists during these two elections reached alarming proportions and seems to have been targeted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “Politicians must control their anger and must appeal for calm and restraint on the part of their supporters for the sake of free expression and the public’s right to news and information. Journalists must not be turned into scapegoats.”

Julliard added: “The Ugandan media seemed to deeply hated by part of the political class and there is risk that impunity could become the rule. We urge the judicial authorities to prosecute those responsible for physical attacks on journalists and to use exemplary severity in these cases.”

The seven journalists involved in yesterday’s two incidents were the victims of exceptional violence.

In one incident, supporters of ruling party candidate Peter Ssematimba armed with sticks tried to lynch six journalists at the Kakeeka polling station in the Kampala district of Lubaga. Angry about media coverage of irregularities, Ssematimba’s supporters seem to have deliberately set a trap for the journalists, telling them to come to the polling station at 10 a.m. to see Ssematimba cast his vote, when in fact he had already voted.

Ssematimba’s supporters first attacked police officers at the polling station and then turned on the journalist, several of whom had to be hospitalized.

Channel 44 TV cameraman Nixon Bbaale sustained a serious head injury. Brian Nsimbe of Channel 44 sustained an arm injury. Florence Nabukeera and Christine Namatumbwe of Metro FM had equipment and personal items taken from her. Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Television reporter Jane Anyango was injured by blows to the face and a leg. And Lydia Nabazziwa of Bukedde TV sustained a serious ear injury.

In the other incident, photographer George Sidel Arinaitwe of the magazine Red Pepper was attacked by supporters of Kampala central division chairman Godfrey Amooti Nyakana at the Railway Park polling station when he tried to investigate possible voting fraud. Nyakana took Arinaitwe’s camera and then his thugs beat him up.

Two journalists – Julius Odeke, a freelancer who works for Red Pepper and the newspaper Razer, and Gerald Mutembu of Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS) – were the victims of violence in the east of the country during the 18 February general election. Odeke was shot in the knee by a minister’s bodyguard.

Last year, two journalists were murdered in separate incidents while a gay rights activist was murdered last month.

Photo : AFP

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