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Radio reporter survives lynching

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Masaka, 11 October 2010 - Bwekumbule Frank, a reporter with the Masaka-based Top Radio, has survived being lynched by a mob as he was covering the demolition of a house.

At 5 p.m. (local time) on 10 October, Bwekumbule, 26, a resident of Kanabukulira Kabonera Subcounty, Masaka district, was tipped off by a radio listener about a demolition incident which was taking place in Butaya village, Kabonera Subcounty.

Bwekumbule, who joined Top Radio in 2009, informed Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he arrived at the news scene and found family members of Jjumba Ssegwanyi destroying a house belonging to their fellow family member, identified only as Bakatadde.

The family members accused Bakatadde of disrespecting their aging father Jjumba Ssegwanyi by not greeting him and insulting him whenever he meets him. The two have been occupying the same piece of land.

HRNJ-Uganda has learnt that before the demolition, a meeting had been convened and resolved to take action against Bakatadde as a way of evicting him from their father's land.

"Upon reaching the scene, I found people who surely knew me better, including my former primary school head teacher, Lukwago Issa. They were able to identify me. They immediately pounced on me and started beating me up, accusing me of interfering with family matters," said Bwekumbule.

He added, "After that, they pushed me into a ditch nearby before pulling me out and dragging me into one of their cars, claiming they were taking me to police. At this moment, my former head teacher tried to strangle me. He was very furious."

Bwekumbule was saved by locals who were attracted by the noise of the scuffle, which lasted close to an hour.

"I sustained injuries to my left leg and severe chest pain as a result of the beating. But I thank so much the locals who rescued me before I was killed, like my former workmate Paul Kiggundu, who met his death at the hands of the commercial motorcyclists in almost a similar way," said Bwekumbule.

Journalists operating in central and southern regions are at greater risk after two journalists, Paul Kiggundu and Dickson Ssentongo, were killed in the course of their work. A large number of incidents against journalists were recorded for the month of September 2010.

Bwekumbule reported the assault and malicious damage to his cell phone to the Kirimya police. However, no arrests had been made by the time of this report.

"There is an escalation of mob justice against journalists in this particular part of the country. HRNJ-Uganda urges the leadership in the country to take this as a very serious matter. We believe that this was total abuse of the law, and so the police must arrest and prosecute all the individuals involved without fear or favor and with utmost urgency," demanded HRNJ-Uganda's board chairman Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda calls upon the police to arrest all the culprits by 15 October and warns it will otherwise initiate a protest action.

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