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Four journalists beaten by police, camera confiscated

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 18 May 2011 - Barely a week after more than a dozen journalists were subjected to police and military brutality, police launched another attack against four journalists.

On 18 May 2011, the journalists were covering an eviction of Lubigi wetland encroachers which was executed by a combined force of military police and Uganda Police Force. Lubigi wetland is located along Hoima road, 15 kilometers northwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that during the eviction, police arrested some of the encroachers, undressed them and beat them up as cameras captured the action.

Sources said that the presence of the journalists did not appeal to the Kampala North Regional Police Commander (RPC), Michael Mugabi, and his officers, who turned their brutality to the journalists.

The beaten journalists include: Stephen Otage, a photojournalist with the "Daily Monitor", Sulaiman Mutebi, a journalist with Bukedde television, Ivan Mukasa, a journalist with "Eddoboozi" newspaper, and Umar Kyeyune, a journalist with UBC television.

The beating of the journalists comes at a time when journalists in Uganda are implementing a blackout on government activities involving the Uganda Media Center, Uganda Police Force conferences, Uganda People's Defence Forces and all ministerial statements.

According to Stephen Otage, after he had photographed three men who were undressed and beaten by police, RPC Mugabi and several police men pounced onto him from behind and grabbed his camera.

"It is a shame that the Uganda Police Force cannot feel sorry for the number of journalists they have injured while they were carrying out their duties. We are convinced that attacks on journalists have been institutionalized since for many years no errant officer has ever been brought to justice at the behest of the police force," said Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala. He added that these attacks are intended to scare off journalists from carrying out their watchdog role.

HRNJ-Uganda calls for the intervention of the international community to bring to order the government of President Museveni and to push for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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