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Ugandan photojournalist shot at from police van

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, second from left, is shielded by supporters Tuesday as security personnel try to detain him. Photojournalist Isaac Kasamani is at far left. (AFP/Michele Sibiloni)

New York, January 25, 2012--Ugandan authorities must hold to account members of security forces who fired Tuesday on a photojournalist covering their attack on the motorcade of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Isaac Kasamani, a photojournalist with the independent Daily Monitor, said men in plainclothes shot at him from a blue police van some 10 meters away as he kneeled to take a photo of an exploding tear gas canister thrown by the agents, according to his account of the incident published in the paper today. Kasamani said the police van bore the license registration UP128 and was following Besigye's motorcade after a peaceful opposition rally in Namungoona, a suburb of the capital Kampala. The operatives, numbering eight or nine, drove off immediately after shooting.

"It is deeply disturbing that our colleague Isaac Kasamani should come under fire from a police van while reporting on the actions of Ugandan security operatives," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We demand a thorough investigation into the shooting. Authorities must ensure that journalists can report without intimidation by security forces."

Ugandan security forces have been severely curtailing the movements of Besigye as the government of President Yoweri Museveni cracks down on protests against inflation, according to news reports. Besigye has been the subject of repeated arrests and beatings, including a particularly brutal arrest in April 2011 that led to his medical evacuation to Kenya. Museveni has vilified journalists covering the security crackdown, and security forces have attacked journalists reporting on opposition demonstrations, according to CPJ research.

This month, police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi denied allegations by Besigye that some members of the security forces were consuming banned substances while charging protesters, Daily Monitor reported.

The Foreign Correspondents' Association of Uganda (FCAU), of which Kasamani is a member on account of his contributions to Agence France-Presse, released a statement condemning the shooting and calling for an investigation.

"The bullet missed me narrowly as I was in motion, bending. I was startled by the incident since I was only doing my work," Kasamani wrote.

In November, the U.S. State Department released a statement condemning Ugandan security forces over reports of heavy-handed and brutal tactics, extrajudicial arrests, and killings. Last month, the Ugandan government pledged to the U.N. Human Rights Council to "mainstream human rights issues in the training curriculum of security agencies," according to a December 2011 report.

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