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Journalist fights off abduction attempt after receiving threatening calls

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Attempted Abduction of Journalist Advocate in Uganda

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the attack and attempted abduction of journalist and media advocate Geoffrey Ssebagala by unidentified men in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Monday, and called on authorities to ensure his safety.

"The attempted abduction of Ssebagala is no doubt orchestrated by those who feel threatened by his work as a journalist and advocate for other journalists," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "Authorities must find those who are responsible and ensure Ssebagala's safety. Our colleague has broadcast reports that are critical of the government and others and we are concerned that this attack was in retaliation for his work."

The attack followed numerous threatening calls made to Ssebagala, Programme Coordinator of the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), on Saturday, warning him he was in imminent danger due to his work, the HRNJ said. The threats came after he said in a radio interview that hundreds of people were being detained and tortured in army safe houses without trial and that there had been extra-judicial killings of Ugandans.

Ssebagala, who is also a former political talk show host on Radio Sapienta, was attacked on Monday evening by unidentified men who knocked him off his motorcycle while he was riding home. His attackers picked him up from the ground and tried to force him into their car. In the ensuing struggle, Ssebagala shouted for help and was luckily rescued by people within the vicinity. The attackers stole a laptop, a camera and a mobile phone used as a hotline for journalists that Ssebagala was carrying with him. Ssebagala suffered back injuries in the attack.

On Tuesday, a caller claiming to be one of his attackers said that he was still being watched and that they would get him anytime they wanted.

Ssebagala has filed a statement with the police who have promised to investigate the matter.

The IFJ is urging the Ugandan authorities to make a full investigation into the attack on Ssebagala to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and that media can work without fear of violent attacks from those who are unhappy with their work.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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