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Uganda: Police attack journalists covering scuffle in Hoima Central Market

A market in Hoima, Uganda. Two journalists were attacked while covering a scuffle between policemen and butchers at the Hoima Central Market.
A market in Hoima, Uganda. Two journalists were attacked while covering a scuffle between policemen and butchers at the Hoima Central Market.

flöschen/Flickr/http://bit.ly/1jLaq0w

On 23 July 2014, an armed policeman in Hoima assaulted Geoffrey Tumwesigye, a journalist working for Bunyoro television and Liberty radio, accusing him of recording a scuffle between policemen and angry butchers at the Hoima central market in Western Uganda. Another journalist, Vincent Arinaitwe, of Liberty FM radio, claimed being shot at as he was covering the same incident, but narrowly survived.

The journalists told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the police officers were engaged in a scuffle with the local butchers who were protesting against the newly introduced levies and regulations by the Hoima Municipal Council authorities

“While I was recording the scuffle, an armed policeman emerged from behind slapped my left upper jaw. When I turned to see him, he slapped me again and said, 'who called you here, what are you doing, why are you recording us, stop,' while trying to grab my camera. When I declined surrendering it, I was slapped again, However, I managed to escape,” Tumwesigye told HRNJ-Uganda.

Amidst the chaos, Arinaitwe claims he was shot at as he crossed over to the police side, “I narrowly escaped a gunshot fired at me, which instead hit the ground causing dust to cover my shoes. I managed to get to the police station although I remained gripped in shock for about three hours.”

The officer in charge of Hoima Police Station, Magombe Ismail, could not give details on the case. However, Tumwesigye opened up an assault case against the implicated police officer. He has since presented two witnesses to support his case.

Meanwhile, another Masaka-based journalist, Margaret Kayondo, a news correspondent for Radio Simba in the South Buganda Sub region, survived a mob as she covered a court session for the trial of Ponsiano Rwakataka, a rally driver facing charges of illegal fish dealing. Kayondo and other journalists in the area were accused of “exaggerating Rwakataka's case”. The bitter mob charged at Kayondo, but she was saved by the local police at court and other prison warders.

Rwakataka is facing charges of illegal fish dealing among others and is being remanded at Kalisizi prison till 25 July. However, his fans have since warned journalists against the continued reporting of Rwakataka's trial.

“HRNJ-Uganda commends the police and prison officers who saved the journalist from an angry mob. However, measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of journalists as they do their work. The police in Hoima should also take action against the officers implicated in assaulting Tumwesigye while on duty,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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