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Journalist shot by soldiers, faces possible arrest

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - A journalist who was shot by the military on 18 February 2011 while covering an election fracas in eastern Uganda has been threatened with arrest while recovering in hospital.

Julius Odeke, a freelance photographer for the "Red Pepper" daily and "Razor" publication, was recovering at the Mbale Referral hospital, nursing a bullet wound after being shot in the ribs by military personnel while covering an election fracas in Budadiri West, in the Mbale district of eastern Uganda.

Odeke's brother, Onyango, told the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that they received information that the security forces were threatening to arrest the photographer in order to confiscate photographic evidence.

"I received a tip about soldiers beating up opposition supporters in Budadiri West on voting day and decided to rush to the scene. Upon my arrival, I took photographs of the military personnel pouncing on opposition Member of Parliament Nandala Mafabi and his entourage," Julius Odeke told HRNJ-Uganda from his hospital bed.

Odeke said his professional work angered security operatives who started demanding he hand over his camera. When he resisted, they started beating him and he later sought refuge in Mafabi's vehicle.

The soldiers then struggled in vain to break the locked doors of the vehicle in order to seize Odeke's camera. They finally resorted to opening fire on the occupants of the vehicle from the back. One of the bullets struck Odeke in the ribs.

The soldiers were travelling in several vehicles, including some belonging to the government, and were said to be under the command of the minister in charge of the presidency, Beatrice Wabudeya, who is also running for the Budadiri West parliamentary seat.

Odeke's health gives cause for concern as he did not receive adequate medical treatment at the Mbale hospital and his unstitched bullet wound continued to bleed.

Police in Mbale recorded a statement given by Odeke from the hospital about the threats to arrest him. HRNJ-Uganda calls on the police to investigate the security personnel involved in the shooting of the journalist and those behind the alleged threats.

Odeke has been evacuated to an unnamed hospital as a precaution to ensure his security.

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