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Senior police officer assaults journalists on duty in Uganda

This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 12 January 2015.

On 12 January 2015, senior police officer Joram Mwesigye – the Division Police Commander (DPC) for Old Kampala police station – assaulted two journalists. They are Lwanga Andrew of Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) Television and Joseph Ssettimba, who works with government-owned Bukedde Television. Lwanga sustained injuries on the head and is currently admitted at Mulago National Referral Hospital while Ssettimba had his trousers torn during the scuffle.

The duo was covering a demonstration by a group of unemployed youths who were reportedly heading to the police headquarters in Naguru to petition the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen. Kale Kayihura. They were intercepted and dispersed by police along Namirembe road at around midday.

Ssettimba told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that Mwesigye hit him with a wire which hooked up his trouser hence tearing it. He said
his video camera was destroyed in the process. He has reported a case of assault and malicious damage of his property at the Central Police Station
in Kampala.

Lwanga could not talk to HRNJ-Uganda as he lay weak on his admission bed at the hospital. His head was swollen.

Eye witnesses told HRNJ-Uganda that he was hit twice on the head by Mwesigye, who also smashed his camera as he said he was tired of journalists, “Stop your recording, [I] am tired of journalists, go go away,” a journalist quoted Mwesigye as having said.

Another journalist said Mwesigye threatened him with shooting, “Go away, I can even shoot you," [he said] as he tried to reach for a gun though he did not get it, which forced him to run and search for it in his car.

Herbert Zziwa of K-FM, a Nation Media Owned radio station, told HRNJ-Uganda that, “Much as I was not beaten, my audio recorder was damaged by the police. A group of journalists later stormed CPS demanding for action against Mwesigye; they threatened to take drastic measures if the police leadership doesn't take up the matter."

Last year, Mulindwa Mukasa dragged the Wandegeya Police Station Commander, Julius Ceaser Tusingwire, to court accusing him of torture. The case is going on at the High Court in Kampala.

“This action by a senior police officer to target journalists and assaulting them rather than ensuring their safety and security as they do their work is deplorable. The police should investigate this matter and take appropriate action against the said errant police officer. The police must ensure the safety and security of the journalists doing their work rather than tormenting them,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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