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Two sports reporters injured by police during football match

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Lugazi, 11 April 2012 - Two journalists were injured by police during a football match at Lugazi. Emmanuel Ndugga, a sports reporter with the Red Pepper, was hit by a rubber bullet in his left leg while Diego Nsubuga, a sports journalist with the government owned Bukedde television, was struck on the head with a teargas canister. They were rushed to Kawolo hospital.

This was during the Bell Uganda Cup quarterfinal match between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and SC Villa. The Villa fans contested a penalty awarded by referee George Mufta to URA for a 3-1 lead in the 68th minute by throwing stones at the linesman Sam Kayondo. The match was abandoned in the 72nd minute.

Before the chaos, about 10 policemen and two soldiers tried to verbally calm the fans. But trouble began when a plain-clothed security operative pulled out a pistol and shot towards the fans. Police reacted by firing teargas and bullets, causing panic at the stadium. Gunshots and teargas engulfed the Lugazi playground for about 30 minutes.

Police fired teargas on the pitch where the club officials and journalists were. It's from there that the journalists were injured. Ndugga told Human Rights Network for Journalists that he was shot in the leg while he was lying down along with other journalists and team officials.

“The situation was peaceful on the pitch when police started firing teargas and gunfire there. We were taking cover at the URA bench where coaches sit. I was lying down when I saw Diego bleeding profusely on the head. I don't know if a policeman was just behind us. I heard a blast but did not realize that I had been shot until I tried to stand, but my leg couldn't support me – I had been shot in the left leg. My trousers got torn. I was rushed to Kawolo hospital from where the bullet was removed from my thigh and discharged. I am now footing my medical bills, it's expensive but I have no option,” Ndugga told HRNJ-Uganda.

Nsubuga blamed the impasse on the police's ruthless handling of the situation, he told HRNJ-Uganda that they overreacted to the situation. He gave a similar account of how they were attacked while taking cover on the pitch.

“I survived one teargas canister as I lied down for cover before another hit me in a space of a minute. At first I thought that I had been shot but doctors at Kawolo hospital said it was a teargas canister on my left side. I was bleeding so much, and rushed to Kawolo hospital. I received four stitches and discharged. I am nursing an injury. I blame it entirely on the police who overreacted. Imagine the pitch was very peaceful and no fans had jumped over the parameter fence but police went ahead to fill it with teargas and gunshots, sending everyone on the ground. URA assistant coach Sadiq Wassa was also injured in the process. The police failed to act professionally; they acted like farmers with guns. With the way they acted, I can't find any kind words for them today,” Nsubuga told HRNJ-Uganda after being discharged from hospital.

“HRNJ-Uganda Is greatly concerned about the fast spread of police brutality to journalists including those not involved in covering opposition related activities. This was not an isolated incident, but a well-designed network of security forces to stop the media from covering particular events which portray them as brutal towards the civilian population. The attacks have happened just days after the broad day attacks on journalists who were covering opposition activities. This is a critical state the media is facing at the hands of the police. We are encouraging the journalists to open up case files against all these errant personnel in the force for prosecution purposes,” said HRNJ-Uganda Program Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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