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Politician assaults photojournalist

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 7 September 2010 - Hajji Hassan Basajjabalaba, of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, slapped and punched senior journalist Arthur Kintu at a NRM conference at the Namboole stadium in Kira Town Council, Wakiso district. Basajjabalaba is the party's chairman of the entrepreneurs' league, which brings together businessmen allied with the NRM.

Kintu, a photojournalist with the government-owned newspaper "The New Vision", is the second journalist to fall victim to Basajjabalaba's brutality. Ivan Kalanzi, a journalist with Radio Two (locally known as Akaboozi), was roughed up two months ago at the Uganda Moslem Supreme Council headquarters at Old Kampala.

"We are concerned about the safety and security of journalists in Uganda ahead of the 2011 general elections. Cases committed against journalists are likely to double the figure registered last year. It is very absurd," said Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) Board Chairperson Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda has learned that Basajjabalaba was angered by being photographed. "I was photographing Basajjabalaba upon learning that he had been re-elected to the post. He angrily charged at me, asking who had given me permission to take his photo. He slapped me twice and punched me in the face. He split my lip and it started to bleed all over," said Kintu.

Kintu added, "As an accredited journalist I did not need Basajjabalaba's permission to take pictures." Basajjabalaba is one of the many politicians and other leaders who have vented their anger and desperation at journalists, while trying to protect themselves from being exposed for abuse of office.

"Such individuals use their economic or political muscle to intimidate the journalists' respective media houses and prevent them from pursuing the matter in the courts of law," Ssempala said.

HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest terms possible Basajjabalaba's violent actions against journalists. We call on police to expeditiously investigate the case and take Basajjabalaba to court to answer for his actions, otherwise a private prosecution case will be lodged by HRNJ-Uganda.

Kintu has reported the matter to the police and an inquiry file was opened at the Namboole Police Station.

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