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Demonstrating students assault two journalists

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Masaka, 12 March 2011 - Mutesa I Royal University students who have been demonstrating over the alleged incompetence of university administrators and poor hygiene conditions have assaulted two journalists.

Mutesa I Royal University is owned by Buganda Kingdom, the largest ethnic group in Uganda based in the central region.

Brian Luwaga, a correspondent with "Kamunye" newspaper, and Edward Bindhe, a stringer with Uganda Radio Network, one of Uganda's news agencies, were invited by the University guild president Francis Kayiira on 11 March 2011 to cover the students' demonstration.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that before the assault of these journalists, the students had earlier locked an official from the kingdom headquarters in a pit latrine.

An eyewitness said the journalists were rounded up inside the university premises while conducting interviews with some students, beaten-up and their tools of trade were seized and damaged.

"I was interviewing students who stormed out of a negotiation meeting chaired by the deputy premier of Buganda Kingdom Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Ssendaula and I was rounded-up by rowdy students. They demanded my identification and immediately grabbed my recorder and my laptop that fell down and got damaged," said Bindhe.

Bindhe said he was assaulted. He called Luwaga to rescue him but the "Kamunye" correspondent was also subsequently roughed up by students.

"I was assaulted for taking photos of students who were harassing Bindhe. Students who attacked me from behind seized my camera and all photos were deleted. I was assaulted for some time until the anti-riot police showed up," Luwaga explained.

"The safety and security of journalists in Uganda has been our major concern even before the February 2011 general elections. We have recorded the highest cases of violence against journalists in the past one year including murder. Our worry is that even members of the public who are supposed to protect journalists are now enemies," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda reminds all journalists to consider their security before deciding to go for a story; however, the organisation challenges police to investigate and bring all rowdy students to justice.

The matter was reported to police and a general inquiry file has been opened at the Masaka police station.

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