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Ugandan journalist injured while covering protests

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - 13 September 2012 - A journalist was injured by an angry mob in the Mbale district as he covered a news story about residents protesting a move to construct a water dam in the area along the River Manafwa. David Wandeka, a correspondent in Eastern Uganda for the private television station NTV, was hit by a stone during a scuffle.

The altercation occurred when locals tried to force away a team of government officials led by the State Minister for Water and Environment, Betty Bigombe, at the Busiu subcounty headquarters in the Mbale district. Wandeka sustained a cut on the head and was rushed to hospital, where he got first aid treatment. He told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that he was in the middle of covering a story when a stone hit him from behind.

"I was covering the story at Busiu sub-county headquarters when a stone hit me on the head from behind. I was holding my camera clearly filming while standing next to a Red Pepper reporter, but I think some locals don't know the importance of the media, or they could have thought that I was part of the minister's team," he told HRNJ-Uganda.

The incident happened on 10 September 2012 at around 2:30 pm, when Bigombe had rushed to Busiu to sensitize the residents on the importance of the water project and drum up support for it. But the residents are reportedly opposed to the project which they accuse government of fronting to grab their land without any compensation.

Wandeka was first attacked in 2011 in Bukedea during the ruling National Resistance Movement party primaries when the police attacked him for filming violent scenes involving some party functionaries. He says that his shirt was torn in the process and his mouth injured.

However, Harrison Agaba - the regional police officer at the time - together with the operation commander, apologized to him.

"HRNJ-Uganda would like to appeal to the police to ensure the safety of journalists and protect them as they carry out their duties. The public should also desist from criminalizing and targeting journalists during scuffles because the media is the public's eyes and ears. Media houses should endeavor to provide protective gears to their reporters when heading to cover such hostile scenes," said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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