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Ugandan ruling party youth convicted of assaulting journalists

NRM youth supporters convicted of assaulting journalists standing in the dock during court judgement.
NRM youth supporters convicted of assaulting journalists standing in the dock during court judgement.

Emmanuel Magambo

This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on 29 March 2017.

Five youth supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party have been found guilty of assaulting three Entebbe-based journalists, thereby occasioning them actual bodily harm and maliciously damaging their property contrary to sections 335 and 236 of the Penal Code Act, respectively.

“The accused persons had the intention of stopping journalists from covering the events (elections). The complainants were just doing their work as journalists and them being stopped [and] beaten was willful and unlawful. Therefore the accused persons are convicted as charged,” said Mastula Mulondo.

She added, “offences of this nature are on the rise, it is the judicial system that can correct this behavior.” She sentenced the five to a fine of three million shillings (USD 845) each, on all the three counts of assault. She also sentenced them to community service at the court premises for two hours daily, for a period of 30 days for the offence of malicious damage to property. In case of failure to pay or do the community service, each of the convicts will serve a jail term of six and four months respectively.

Prosecution led by Christopher Muganzi, adduced evidence that on 4 March 2016, the convicted persons – while at Entebbe Municipal Council offices – assaulted and damaged property belonging to Kigongo Ssebalamu, Ssempijja Godfrey (both of Vision Group) and Kakooza George William of Central Broadcasting Services (CBS). The journalists were covering the Entebbe Local Council Elections.

HRNJ-Uganda's Legal Officer, Kenneth Ntende, welcomed the judgment and commended the court for coming out to defend the media and freedom of expression. HRNJ-Uganda's National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala, described the judgement as another milestone in defence of media freedom and the rights of journalists in the country.

The journalists – Kakooza, Sesebalamu and Ssempijja – were all happy with the judgement and said that justice had been delivered to them.

The maiden hearing of this case – on 8 August 2016 – was characterized by further attacks on media personnel. After the hearing of the bail application in which the five accused persons were remanded to Kigo prison (in Wakiso District) for failing to fulfill the bail conditions, their fellow party members attacked the journalists and others as a way to stop them from covering the accused's transfer to the prison bus enroute to Kigo prison. It took the intervention of a prison's warden who fired in the air to disperse the rowdy NRM supporters in a scuffle that almost lasted over half an hour. The HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala was injured in the process.

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