The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, said three Ugandan journalists were attacked by police outside the Kampala Central Police Station on October 4. The attacks are the most recent of at least 10 previously reported cases documented by the organization.
Freelance journalist Isaac Kasamani, television reporter William Ntege of WAVAH broadcasting service, and Nicholas Mwesigwa, a reporter for the private daily publication, Red Pepper, were covering the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye when the attacks occurred.
The CPJ said Uganda’s police have been engaged in a cynical and lawless pattern against journalists. The organization says the police assault reporters covering news events and destroy their equipment. They said the police are not held accountable for their actions.
“A lot of the police work to support the ruling party, not necessarily the Ugandan public as a whole. Whenever journalists are covering events organized by the opposition or opposition members, they seem to react very negatively, and very violently against the press,” said Tom Rhodes, east Africa Consultant for the CPJ.
In the case of the three journalists attacked in Kampala on October 4th, the CPJ said Kasamani was slapped by a police officer and then another officer pushed him down, injuring him and breaking his camera. Ntege was reported to have been pushed down the stairs of the station, hurting his leg and destroying his camera, and Mwesigwa says he was punched by an officer.
The CPJ said a Kampala police spokesman said the attacks would be investigated. However in past instances, it has been reported that the police have blamed the journalists for acting unprofessionally. Rhodes said he can recall two or three cases from this year where that may have been the case, but he said even then, the police attacks and destruction of property were not warranted.
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“While police do have a point, and we should concur there are cases where the press has been left wanting, I think these incidences are far, far out-numbered by cases of the police harassing the press for no reason,” said Rhodes.