KAPCHORWA – Journalists from different media houses were on Wednesday, May 8, beaten up and forced to delete their pictures and footage from their cameras by Kapchorwa District councillors during a stormy council meeting.
The journalists, who include Daily Monitor’s Micheal Woniala and Denis Wanyoro from Open Gate FM in Mbale, had come to cover a session that sought to approve new members of the district service commission.
It was anticipated that a section of councillors would not approve some of the members given that they had been appointed irregularly since they are relatives of the district chairperson, Mr Christopher Chekurui Songhor.
However, probably sensing danger, Chekurui mobilised some councillors and moved a motion to block the journalists from covering the meeting.
The district speaker, Mr Backson Kapsandui, subjected the motion to the vote and majority of the councillors voted in favour. The Speaker, then, ordered the journalists out of the meeting.
As they were leaving, a group of angry councillors pushed them out of the meeting hall. They followed them outside and ordered them to delete the pictures and footage they had captured. Those who refused were beaten up.
The Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Ms Emma Rose Cherukut, who was in attendance, walked out of the council meeting, protesting the assault of journalists.
I cannot attend a meeting, where journalists are being mistreated yet they are doing their job,” Ms Cherukut said. “The journalists were roughed up and pushed. It was shocking to see how councillors were misbehaving and assaulting innocent people,” she said.
Mr Wanyero said they their cameras were damaged and said they will sue the councillors
“We are planning to report our case to relevant authorities to seek redress,” he said.
Assault of journalists is on the rise in Uganda. Last week, Fred Waninda, the acting Commercial court registrar in charge of planning, performance and development allegedly slapped Hannington Kisakye, a journalist attached to Smart 24 Television.
The Uganda Journalist Association (UJA) through their lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha Company Advocates have since sued Waninda.
Waninda was caught on camera slapping Kisakye in the face for recording him while exiting the Commercial court where he had testified on allegations of forging an agreement with intentions of grabbing land belonging to Charles Mulindwa, a resident of Bugujju in Mukono municipality.
Kisakye says the registrar damaged his camera’s lens. According to Kisakye, he rushed to the Central Police Station Kampala to file a case of assault, but the officers declined to record his complaint.