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Two photojournalists attacked in separate incidents

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 26 September 2010 - Two photojournalists working with different media houses in Uganda were confronted and beaten up while on duty at two different entertainment spots in Kampala on 22 September 2010.

Stuart Yiga, 26, a reporter and photojournalist with the "Red Pepper" publication, was beaten up by a city lawyer, Geoffrey Kayanja, who smashed his camera and accused him of taking photos of him at a graduation party held at Club T1, located along 2nd street, an industrial area in Kampala.

Yiga, a resident of Mutungo in Nakawa division, Kampala district, who has been working with "Red Pepper" since 2008, said he had been invited to the party by the organizers as a journalist. The party took place on 22 September 2010.

Yiga said that when he took photos of Kayanja while he was sharing romantic moments with a certain woman at the party, at around 1:00 a.m., Kayanja charged at him bitterly, demanding to know who had given him the permission to do so.

"When I took his photos, Kayanja asked me why I had photographed him. Before I could explain, he got hold of my collar, slapped me twice and dragged me out of the club," Yiga said.

He added that, "Once outside, he grabbed my camera, removed the lens and hit it hard on the floor and smashed the camera frame and demanded an explanation for taking his photos."

Yiga said that he managed to run away but returned moments later to look for his camera's memory card at the scene where again he found Kayanja still waiting.

"He slapped me again, confiscated the card and bragged that I was free to go and report the incident," Yiga added.

Yiga said that once in his car, Kayanja threw his business card at him and told him that he "now knows the type of person he was messing with." Yiga reported the assault and malicious damage to property at the Jinja road police station.

Meanwhile, the other journalist who suffered almost the same fate is Mubiru Kakebe, a photojournalist with the "New Vision" publication, where he has worked for three years.

Kakebe, 30, is a resident of Kyebando, Eriisa zone, in Kawempe division, Kampala district.

On 22 September, he was covering an entertainment event of a live musical performance by the Qwela band at Club Rouge, located in the Commercial Plaza building, near the railway headquarters in Kampala.

Kakebe said he had been cleared by the security personnel at the venue, but got confronted moments after the band had started performing, at around 11 p.m., by a man who introduced himself as the director and owner of the entertainment spot.

Efforts to justify his presence and clearance by the security did not stop this man from ordering his bouncers to rough him up and throw him outside of the club.

"I resisted surrendering my camera but in vain as they overpowered me," Kakebe stated. "They confiscated my camera and bag which had valuable items including my house keys. This man hit me hard, injuring one of my eyes, and I fell down helplessly," he added.

"When the police arrived, they took me and another man, Ivan Byamugisha, who was brought in as the owner of the place, to the Central Police Station (CPS) in Kampala from where both of us recorded our statements."

The Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that the police have ordered the management of the entertainment spot to produce the bouncers who reportedly beat up Kakebe, but they have not responded, and no action has been taken by the police against them.

The case is under investigation by the police.

"These acts are very unfortunate, especially when the perpetrators of this gross abuse of rights and law have not met with the full force of the law," said the HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman, Robert Ssempala.

"The police have the challenge of bringing to book such culprits who take it upon themselves to harass and beat up journalists at will."

HRNJ-Uganda demands that the law council takes disciplinary action against errant practitioners like Kayanja, who choose to take the law into their hands.

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