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Ugandan press freedom group suffers attempted break-in

HRNJ-Uganda staff at the press conference
HRNJ-Uganda staff at the press conference

Magambo Emmanuel

This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 14 April 2016.

On 10 April 2016, the premises of HRNJ-Uganda were broken into by unknown assailants. The break-in started at about 4:00PM, when a youthful lady approached the security guard on duty and requested him to open the building to which he complied. Upon querying her, he then offered her a seat just by the guard's booth. They seemed to converse, and later she stepped out of the compound, only to return with some food and shared it with the guard. Moments after consuming the food, the guard passed out.

There after some two able bodied young men were shown jumping over the fence and they approached the security guard's booth where he could have been lying unconscious. These two young men then used the keys from the security guard's booth to let two other men come in through the gate carrying metallic equipment.

Then four men are shown moving around the building touching different doors and windows. They left the premises without breaking into the office due to the strong security measures that HRNJ-Uganda has re-enforced, like installing cameras, installing another access door at the back, an alarm system and replacing the old burglar proofing and enhanced lighting system around the office.

When staff reported to the office on Monday morning, they found the night guard unconscious in his booth and called the security firm to come over and take him to hospital. It appeared to be a normal sickness, so he was taken to Mulago hospital. The day went on normally, but in the evening of 11 April the guard on duty wanted to close up the main gate but could not locate the padlocks; this prompted him to contact the staff who were still at the office. They looked for the padlocks but were not successful, so they reviewed the cameras and saw the entire events of the previous night.

We have since reported the matter to Old Kampala Police Station and hope that full investigations into this intrusion will be undertaken. A police detective and scene of crime officer have since visited the offices.

This trend of office break-ins has been going on for a while with human rights organisations targeted in the country. HRNJ-Uganda was last broken into on the night of 29 June 2015 with the robbers making away with computers, valuable documents, a money safe and other property worth 45 million shillings. It was also broken into in May 2013 while still at the old premises at Mengo, forcing the organisation to shift to its current premises. Both cases were reported to police but no reports have since been made.

This notwithstanding, HRNJ-Uganda is in a sound position and duly carrying on with delivering on its mandate of defending and promoting media freedoms and journalists' rights.

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