Six journalists attacked in Uganda election violence

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye displays pre-marked ballot papers during a news conference Kampala. Election-rigging has been alleged in national and local polls. (AP/Stephen Wandera)

New York, February 24, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Ugandan police to conduct a thorough investigation and arrest all the perpetrators involved in the brutal attacks against six journalists on Wednesday during local elections in the capital, Kampala. Men believed to be supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party mayoral candidate for Kampala, attacked journalists covering the mayoral elections at the Kakeeka polling station in the capital, local journalists told CPJ. 

Wielding stones and sticks with nails, a mob attacked the journalists when they attempted to cover ruling party candidate Peter Ssematimba casting his vote at the Kakeeka polling station. The mob exited the station and disrupted voters and targeted journalists, local reporters told CPJ. The men ordered journalists to stop taking pictures. Local journalists said they suspected the mob disrupted the polling process to prevent the public from witnessing alleged ballot-stuffing with pre-ticked ballots favoring Ssematimba's candidacy.  The mob quickly overpowered the small group of police patrolling the polling station, local journalists told CPJ. 

Private radio station Metro FM filed a statement with the police after one of its reporters was attacked. Metro FM Director Brasio Zambale told CPJ that police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooka said there would be an investigation into the violence.

Local elections for district chairman and mayors took place on Wednesday. Voting irregularities were witnessed at several of the polling stations--including higher vote counts at polling stations than registered voters, local journalists told CPJ.

"This violence to prevent journalists from covering balloting and exposing any electoral fraud, must be investigated immediately and the perpetrators brought to justice," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Elections cannot be considered free and fair if the media is unable to cover their processes."

The mob attacked two journalists working for the vernacular-language station Bukedde FM, Lydia Nabazziwa and Florence Nabukeera. Nabazziwa sustained a serious injury to her ear and received treatment at Kololo Hospital while Nabukeera developed a clot in her arm and was treated at Rubaga Hospital, Bukedde FM News Editor Jude Matovu told CPJ. The two reporters were providing live coverage of the violence at the Kakeeka polling station and were direct targets of the mob, Matovu added.

Two journalists at the Christian television station Channel 44 TV were admitted to Mengo Hospital for treatment, the Human Rights Journalist Network of Uganda reported. Reporter Brian Nsimbe sustained an arm injury and cameraman Nixon Bbaale was cut on his head. The journalists were later discharged, local journalists told CPJ. Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV senior reporter Jane Anyango was cut on the face and bruised and received treatment at Mayor Clinic, local journalists told CPJ.

Christine Namatumbwe, a reporter and news anchor for Metro FM sustained injuries to her arm, and her cell phone and handbag were stolen during the attack, station director Zambale. Namatumbwe received treatment at Rubaga Hospital and was discharged the same day, he said.

Uganda held presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni won the vote.

February 24, 2011 4:36 PM ET |

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