28 May 2014

Uganda: Police Officer Attacks Journalist Covering By-Elections in Uganda

A journalist has opened up a case against the police force to investigate the circumstances under which he was brutally assaulted by a police officer while covering the Luweero Woman Parliamentary by-elections in the wee hours of 22 May 2014.

Herbert Zziwa, a journalist working with KFM radio and Dembe FM under the Nation Media Group, told the District Police Commander for Luweero, Justus Asiimwe, that on the fateful night, he was hit with a baton on the head as he recorded the jubilating supporters of the opposition candidate, Brenda Nabukeenya at about 1:30am local time. "After the police hit me on the head, I bled profusely, shouted for help and pleaded for mercy from the policemen, but one of them continued to hit me as he pushed me away." Zziwa narrated

The police regretted the incident and promised to question all the officers who were on duty then. "We are sorry for whatever happened on that day, but I can assure you, we are going to investigate this matter to establish whether there was use of excessive force. This is not a normal assault since it's labeled against a policeman. All the officers who were on duty will have to be questioned." He assured a group of journalists led by the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala at Luweero Police Station.

The police spokesperson for Savanah Region, Lameck Kigozi said that the police officer who hit the journalist was to be isolated. "It's very regrettable that such a thing happened to a journalist. I want to assure you that everything will be done to ensure that the policeman who did that is identified, isolated and handled as an individual."

Zziwa and Brian Luwaga, a journalist with the Uganda Radio Network (URN) accused the police of assaulting them while they covered the recent by-elections in Luweero.

The HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala scoffed at the police for having ignored the incidents against the journalists. "The police had let this pass because since 22nd May, no officers had been questioned over the assault, but since we have now formally lodged a complainant, we intend to present four witnesses who will help the victim journalist to pin the police and get justice. We want this matter to go to court. So we hope that the police will handle it expeditiously."

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