A peaceful procession by journalists to police headquarters in Naguru against police brutality ended prematurely as police once again showed its ugly and brutal side by firing tear gas and live ammunition.
Journalists subscribing to Uganda Journalists Association (UJA), Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) and Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) today morning attempted to march to the police headquarters to hand in a petition against continued brutality. This follows a sustained two-week attack on journalists covering the students protest at Makerere University.
Last week Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) president Bashir Kazibwe announced a media blackout on all police activities and a procession to police headquarters in protest against what he called well-orchestrated and coordinated brutality against journalists since the Makerere students protest that broke out on October 22.
The students protest against a 15 per cent cumulative tuition increment for the next five years is now into the third week but journalists who have been covering the protests have faced it rough with police. They have been particularly targeted reportedly on the orders of the university management which claims that the journalists want to tarnish the image of the university.
Daily Monitor's photojournalist Alex Esagala and Geoffrey Twesigye, a photographer with NTV Uganda and Lawrence Kitata of Vision Group were hit with tear gas canisters by the police. Esagala and Twesigye ended up being hospitalised for several days. Earlier Chris Ssemakula from BBS TV, Canary Mugume of NBS TV and Davidson Ndyabahika Uganda Radio Network were also attacked by the police force.
Although the journalists had plotted to start their procession from the UMA Conference Hall at Lugogo, a group led by UJA president Bashir Kazibwe opted to start the procession from the Railway Grounds. They were however intercepted just after crossing the Jinja road traffic lights.
Teargas and bullets as police arrests journalists marching to Naguru police headquarters to petition the IGP over continued police brutality. #Journalismisnotacrime #PressFreedom @observerug pic.twitter.com/Dg7xn0Ajm3— Nicholas Bamulanzeki (@bamulanzeki) November 4, 2019
Meanwhile, the other group of journalists led by UPPA president Moses Mulondo and HRNJ National coordinator Robert Ssempala was blocked by anti-riot police while approaching the police headquarters on grounds that the procession was illegal.
In the process, Kazibwe, Daily Monitor journalist Damalie Mukhaye, KTV's Siraje Kiberu and UPPA president Moses Mulondo got arrested and were taken to Central police station (CPS) The now charged journalists stormed CPS demanding for the immediate release of fellow journalists. Police cowed to the pressure and released the journalists.
Fused by a human chain link, the group was later asked to select four representatives to deliver the petition to the IGP. They settled for 10 after negotiating with the security.
Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said that no journalist had been arrested. Those who were in police custody were held as a security measure, he said.
In the aftermath, Mulondo said that the procession had been cleared by the inspector general of police, despite being blocked. He, however, added that police action will not deter them from fighting for press freedom.