KAMPALA — Paying tribute to Mr James Akena, a photojournalist with Reuters, who is now confined in a wheelchair following brutality at the hands of soldiers during last year’s protest in Kampala, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi has lamented that freedom of the press is increasingly “shrinking” and called on authorities to better protect journalists.
Kyagulanyi, one of the leading opposition figures, popularly known as Bobi Wine says story of Mr Akena, who is an award winning photo-journalist with Reuters is very painful.
For covering the #FreeBobiWine protests last year, Mr. Akena was brutally clobbered by the military.
“By men wearing our uniform and bearing our national flag! His pleas that he was only a journalist doing his job landed on deaf ears as he was flogged by men who we pay to protect us!” Bobi Wine said decrying the military blutality.
“Countrymen and women, this is what our struggle is about,” he noted adding that “We must end the wanton abuse of authority and restore the respect for human rights in our country.”
Bobi Wine restoring the campaign that journalism is not a crime said that never should any Ugandan be treated in this manner by the state.
“Never should anyone violate citizens’ rights and go scot free,” he said.
A number of journalists have been arrested, severely beaten up by security while carrying out their work.
In all the cases, no one has been held accountable.
Calling this state of affairs “outrageous,” the Bobi Wine said “when journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price” as “no democracy is complete without press freedom”.
Harassment of journalists is on the rise in Uganda, and freedom of speech is under threat, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.
In August last year, various media houses including NTV and NBS televisions reported that their journalists went missing following the chaos and gunfire that rocked Arua town.
Some of these were reporting live about the death of Bobi Wine’s driver Yasin Kawuma who was shot dead.
Some of the journalists that went missing include, NTV’s Herbert Zziwa and cameraman Ronnie Muwanga but the duo was released from Gulu Central Police Station on bond after being charged with incitement of violence and malicious damage of property.
Others include John Kibalizi for NBS television and several others.
On August 31, security operatives attacked and battered Joshua Mujunga, a video journalist at NBS Television for covering a riot in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.
On most of these and many other occasions that have gone unreported by the media, police have walked away with impunity.
Various reports by human rights activists have for many years ranked Police as the number one violator of human rights.
Early this year, UBC TV journalist Peter Otai who took the pictures of retired Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza’s military guards and him mishandling a traffic policewoman said one of the ambassador’s soldiers, Okurut (as per his name tag) even attempted to stab him with a sword but missed him.