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Local council chairman and entourage turn on journalist

UPDATE: Police fail to arrest city mayor over journalist's assault (HRNJ-Uganda, 11 September 2012)

(HRNJ/IFEX) - Kampala, 23 February 2011 - Kampala central division chairman Godfrey Amooti Nyakana and members of his security detail turned on "Red Pepper" photojournalist Arinaitwe George Sidel and assaulted him for taking photos without their permission.

Sidel is the seventh journalist to be assaulted during the widespread violence that has characterized the local Council Five polls for district chairpersons and councillors held today.

Sidel, 26, told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that at 9:30 a.m. local time he was alerted about electoral irregularities by a source at the Railway Park polling station along Jinja Road, and hurried to reach the scene.

Upon reaching the scene, he said he found people arguing over the many ballot papers which had been stuffed in the box, despite the small number of voters recorded in the register.

"I started taking photos and immediately a gang of people came, lifted me up and took me to Nyakana, who immediately grabbed my camera. I pleaded with him to release my camera but instead his bouncers boxed me in the face and I fell down," Sidel said.

Despite appeals from other journalists who were there to return the camera, Nyakana resorted to insults and disappeared with the camera on a boda boda (a local motorcycle). He accused the journalist of taking his photo without his permission.

"People should understand that photojournalists are not obligated to seek permission to take a photo of anybody while in a public place," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala. This incident "is a gross abuse of journalists' rights and freedoms and this is the second time Nyakana is taking the law into his hands," he continued.

HRNJ-Uganda demands that Nyakana and his aides be brought to justice and calls for an end to the high level of impunity in Uganda.

The case has been reported to the Kampala Central Police station and a file has been opened.
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