Ugandan journalists on the worst receiving end in Uganda’s living memory

From Our Kampala Correspondent

Sympathisers help lift up Robert Kiggundu, a freelance, after being beaten up while reporting on events in Kampala. He later died from his wounds.

The safety and security of journalists in Uganda has witnessed its greatest decline to the lowest ebb, the Press Freedom Index (PFI) report 2011 says. The report released today indicates that 55 journalists were subjected to different forms of violence singling out particularly physical attacks on individual journalists to be on the rise with 36 cases. The PFI report which highlighted the plight of journalists and show cased the environment under which the media operate, covers a period of six months between November 2010 and April 2011.

Although supporters of different political parties committed numerous attacks against journalists especially during the February 2011 general elections, the Uganda Police Force which is supposed to protect journalists leads the list of tormentors with 19 cases. Others include, supporters of political parties with 12 cases, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) with nine cases, individuals with seven cases, media owners with three, university students with two, Residents District Commissioners (RDCs) with two and unknown attackers with one.

The unlawful actions of UPDF and its subordinate institutions including Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT) and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) have increased against journalists from kidnap, detention in communication, arbitrary arrest, and confiscation of journalists’ tools of trade to erasing photos or video clips. The period under review had 36 cases of physical attack on journalists out of 55 cases recorded between 1st November 2011 and 26th April 2011. The other nature of cases committed against journalists in Uganda namely; kidnap and detained incommunicado (1), direct threats (7), arbitrary arrest and detention (5,) journalists sacked under duress (3), false charges (1), and (1) camera was destroyed.

“We are saddened that no attacker has ever been brought to justice. Even the few, who were arrested, were released on orders of either Resident District Commissioners or District Internal Security Officers (DISO) like in Aleptong district. The physical attack figure is worrying because it’s the highest to be documented in six months” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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