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News anchor beaten to death with metal bar

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - On 13 September 2010, Dickson Ssentongo was waylaid by unidentified metal-bar welding men in Nantabulirirwa village. They reportedly beat him to death at 5:00 a.m. while he was on his way to his radio station on foot. His attackers dragged him about 100 meters from the scene of the crime, where they left him lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

Ssentongo, 29, was a resident of Nantabulirirwa village, Ggoma sub-county, Mukono district, in the Central region of Uganda, where he had been staying with his parents. He joined the Kireka-based Seventh Day Adventist church-owned Prime Radio station in 2008 as a Luganda (local language) news anchor. He had also been a court assessor for the Mukono High Court.

At the time of his death, Ssentongo had joined active politics and was an aspiring councilor for Nantabulirirwa Parish at Ggoma sub-county, on the ticket of the Democratic Party, an opposition political party in Uganda.

The journalists's employer and chief news editor at Prime Radio, Katongole Kiwanuka, told HRNJ-Uganda that Ssentongo was found by a local farmer in a potato garden lying in a pool of blood around 9:00 a.m. local time. When the farmer tried to help him, he managed to speak only one word - "Prime" - before he fell unconscious.

He was rushed to Mukono health centre 1V, but could not get any treatment there. He was later rushed to Mulago national referral hospital where he died about 12 hours later, before he received treatment. Hospital authorities had demanded payment prior to treating Ssentongo.

Ssentongo's death comes just three days after motorcyclists in Rakai district beat Paul Kiggundu, a Top Radio reporter, to death while he was on duty.

The District Police Commander (DPC) of Mukono, ASP Musoni Alphonse, said he had dispatched a team of police investigators to establish the facts of the case and make arrests.

"Such cases are not common in the area but in the few cases of it, the metal-bar men target early risers. They first establish their movement patterns," said Musoni.

HRNJ-Uganda sends its condolences to the family of the journalist. "It is a very sad moment for the media in Uganda. We call upon all media houses to prioritise the safety of their employees, because it's odd that the deceased was moving on foot alone at such a dangerous time", said HRNJ-Uganda board chairman Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda shall put pressure on the police to bring the perpetrators to book.
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