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Journalists, protesters and politicians under attack amid opposition protests

At least 10 journalists were attacked by soldiers last week in Uganda while covering the return of opposition leader Kizza Besigye to Uganda. Besigye had arrived from Kenya, where he was treated for injuries received when security forces violently dispersed an opposition demonstration in Kampala last month, say Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). It's just the latest example of the government's hostility to the press as walk-to-work protests continue over spiralling fuel and food prices, report Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda (HRJ-Uganda), CPJ and RSF.

In April, Ugandan soldiers and police fired teargas to disperse thousands demonstrating against the arrest of Forum for Democratic Change opposition leader Kizza Besigye. He later travelled to Kenya for treatment at a Nairobi hospital, after being assaulted by security forces on 28 April. Rumours of his return provoked a mass deployment of military, security forces and police, said local journalists.

As supporters came out for Besigye's arrival in Uganda last week, timed to protest President Yoweri Museveni's swearing-in ceremony, military police beat journalists with sticks and gun butts as they took photos of supporters being attacked. Security forces confiscated equipment from reporters and deleted photos taken by foreign journalists. Some journalists were pulled out of trucks and severely beaten. Other journalists have now gone into hiding after being warned by government sources that they were being accused of having connections with Besigye's opposition party.

President Museveni has maintained a stranglehold on the press since his election victory in February and especially since demonstrations started over rising food and fuel prices. "The opposition leader's return to Kampala was a major political event that had to be covered for the Ugandan public. The security forces should not confuse an event's participants with the journalists who are just observing it," said RSF.

Journalists have been brutalised by security services and accused of supporting demonstrations against price hikes and inciting violence. Anti-riot police arrested TV journalist Williams Ntege on 2 May for filming the arrest of Kampala MP Nabirah Ssempala as she walked to work.

The same day, Radio Simba journalist Christine Nabatanzi was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet while covering opposition Democratic Party supporters celebrating the release from a Kampala prison of their leader, Norbert Mao. Police once again used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse supporters and then targeted journalists covering the attacks on supporters.

In the southwest border town Kabale, assailants set fire to journalist Goodluck Musinguzi's home on 10 May - while Musinguzi, his wife, and his newborn child were inside. He and his wife and three daughters survived. A contributor to the state-owned daily, "New Vision", Musinguzi recently wrote a story about two suspected Congolese rebels who were killed near the Uganda-Rwanda border. He also reported on two Ugandans who were arrested in Rwanda on suspicion that they were recruiting rebels to topple Rwandan President Paul Kagame's government.

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