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Uganda: Press freedom group coordinator arrested after protesting police violence

Journalists were barred from accessing the station where HRNJ-Uganda's national coordinator, Robert Ssempala, was detained
Journalists were barred from accessing the station where HRNJ-Uganda's national coordinator, Robert Ssempala, was detained

HRNJ-Uganda/Twitter

This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 13 January 2015.

Cruelty against journalists recurred when police officers associated with the Jinja Road Police Station intercepted and pepper-sprayed journalists who were peacefully walking to the police headquarters in Naguru, a suburb of Kampala. The journalists were going to petition the inspector general of police against violent attacks on journalists by police officers.

Earlier on, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) had issued a press statement through their umbrella body, calling for a media black-out against the police force in Kampala, until action is taken against errant police officers.

During the scuffle, the organization's national coordinator, Robert Ssempala and two other journalists were arrested and detained, but released without any charges preferred against them, following an intervention by the Deputy Commissioner of the Kampala Metropolitan Police, Kasalawo Christopher.

They later proceeded to Naguru where they met the Police Director of Operations, Felix Kaweesi. The journalists called for urgent action against brutal acts [committed by] of Joram Mwesigye, the Division Police Commander (DPC) of Old Kampala Police Station.

On the 12 of January 2015, Mwesigye assaulted and severely beat up a Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) Television cameraman Lwanga Andrew into coma, and tore the trousers of Ssettimba Joseph, a journalist with Bukedde Television, a government owned station.

During the meeting, Kaweesi apologized and condemned the actions of Mwesigye, saying that they were personal and did not reflect the true image of the police force. He further told journalists that the inspector general of police had ordered for Mwesigye' immediate suspension, arrest and detention pending investigations into his alleged gross misconduct. He is currently being detained at the Central Police Station in Kampala. Kaweesi also regretted the incident that occurred at Jinja Road police station against journalists and vowed to take appropriate action.

A meeting between journalists and the inspector general of police has been scheduled for 15 January 2015, where a petition against police brutality towards journalists will be presented by HRNJ-Uganda. In the interim, a media blackout against the police will continue.

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