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Special Forces rough up journalist, seize camera

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - On 9 February 2011, Masaka-based NTV Uganda correspondent Issa Aliga was detained by the Special Forces Group (SFG) for filming a scuffle involving Rwemiyaga area Member of Parliament Theodore Ssekikubo ahead of President Yoweri Museveni's campaign rally.

SFG is part of the biggest presidential security service.

According to an eyewitness, the altercation ensued after SFG prevented Ssekikubo from pinning his banner, 300 meters away from Museveni's campaign venue.

Ssekikubo is an incumbent MP for Rwemiyaga County seeking re-election on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket. The NRM is the political organization chaired by Museveni.

Aliga was previously assaulted by MP Sauda Namagwa in late January. The correspondent told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that when he arrived at the Rwemiyaga trading center in Ssembabule district at around 11:15pm on 9 February, he found a charged crowd which seemed to be involved in a scuffle and jumped out his vehicle to start filming.

"While filming I was roughed up and manhandled by four Special Force personnel who confiscated my camera. I was pushed here and there on accusation of filming an event without permission. I was taken to their bus and interrogated for some minutes after introducing myself to them," Aliga explained.

He said that he was released after being questioned but his pleas to have his camera returned fell on deaf ears. He was then ordered to go through the usual security checks.

Efforts by HRNJ-Uganda to talk to SFG spokesperson Capt. Edison Kwesiga were futile as his mobile phone was switched off.

HRNJ-Uganda has received information to the effect that SFG has barred Aliga from attending Museveni's rallies following the correspondent's refusal to record a statement.

"Aliga becomes the second journalist to be subjected to such cruel treatment after 'Red Pepper' freelance reporter Kits Mabonga during this same election period. Why aren't those errant soldiers who survive on taxpayers' money brought to justice?" wondered HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda condemns such an inhumane treatment of a journalist in the strongest terms possible and challenges police to investigate the matter and bring those responsible to justice in the shortest period of time possible. Otherwise, HRNJ-Uganda will not hesitate to seek legal redress.

Aliga's camera was eventually returned later that same evening, although some of the video clips had been deleted.

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