At least 5 Ugandan journalists wounded covering protest

New York, March 19, 2010At least five journalists were wounded while covering violent clashes between security personnel and protesters outside the capital, Kampala, on Wednesday. Scores of protestors and mourners came to Kasubi, a Kampala suburb, after a fire of unknown origin destroyed the historically significant royal tombs of the Buganda kingdom on Tuesday.   

Mukiibi Serunjogi, a reporter for the vernacular weekly Ggwanga, told CPJ he was struck in the knee by a gunshot fired by a security agent. Three people were killed during the clashes between security agents and protesters, according to news reports.

Red Cross personnel transported Serunjogi to Namirembe Hospital in Kampala, said Serunjogi, who is now recovering at home. Serunjogi said he believes he may have been targeted, although other reports suggested the shot was random. Ggwanga is published by Buganda News and Publishing House, which has close ties to the Buganda kingdom, Serunjogi told CPJ.

We deplore the attacks by both sides on reporters covering this sensitive story,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “The Ugandan authorities must ensure that journalists can work safely without violence at the hands of police or protesters.”

Four journalists were injured by either security guards or protestors on Wednesday, according to the Ugandan Journalist Association, which said one of the wounded was hospitalized today in Kampala. The man, freelance photographer Moses Lemisa, told CPJ in an interview on Thursday that he was struck by an officer with the Presidential Guard Brigade. By late Thursday, Lemisa’s condition had deteriorated to the point where hospitalization was required, colleagues said today.

Protestors attacked freelance reporter Benjamin Ssebaggala and photographer Steven Musoke, both of whom sustained minor injuries, local journalists told CPJ. The two, along with Lemisa, were working for the vernacular daily Bukedde, which is considered a pro-government publication, said Herbert Lemansi, vice president of the Ugandan Journalists Association.

In another incident, Deutsche Welle correspondent Leila Ndinda was attacked by protestors who accused her of belonging to the same tribe as President Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan Human Rights Network of Journalists reported. Protestors threw stones at the reporter and stole her hand bag, the network said.

The destroyed tomb had been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. Tension has been high between the government and the kingdom since disagreements over land and political rights led to deadly violence last September.