New York, September 15, 2010—Unidentified assailants beat and killed news presenter Dickson Ssentongo Monday morning on his way to work at Prime Radio in Mukono district, central Uganda. Assailants beat Ssentongo with metal bars and dragged him into a nearby cassava field, local journalists told CPJ. He was the second journalist murdered in three days in Uganda.
Ssentongo was attacked at 5 a.m. while trying to catch a bus in Nantabulirirwa village, 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the Kireka-based Prime Radio station, News Editor Katongole Kiwanuka told CPJ. He said an unidentified witness had called the station and described what had happened. A local farmer found Ssentongo alive at 9 a.m., the Ugandan Human Rights Journalists Network reported, and he was rushed to Mulago Hospital, where he died several hours later, the network said.
Ssentongo routinely read the 7 a.m. news bulletins for the Seventh Day Adventist radio station in the Luganda language, Kiwanuka said. He was also running for a position in the Democratic Party, one of the leading opposition parties to the ruling National Resistance Movement.
“CPJ sends its condolences and sympathies to the family and colleagues of Dickson Ssentongo,” CPJ’s East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said. “Authorities must do their utmost to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, especially at this politically sensitive time in the lead-up to national elections.”
Presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place in February and March 2011.
The district police commander of Mukono, Musoni Alphonse, said he dispatched a team of investigators to the area, local journalists told CPJ. Police said they suspect the murderers had trailed Ssentongo and knew his daily movements. His colleagues at Prime Radio said they believe the murder was politically motivated since his personal belongings, including cell phone and wallet, were not taken.
Ssentongo, 29, had worked as Lugandan news presenter for Prime Radio for two years and a part-time court assessor for the Mukono High Court, local journalists told CPJ. Politically active, Ssentongo was an aspiring councilor for Nantabulirirwa Parish at Ggoma Sub-County on the ticket of the Democratic Party. Although Prime Radio primarily deals with social issues, Ssentongo would promote the parties’ political activities on the radio whenever he could, Kiwanuka told CPJ. “He was unmarried and passionate about politics,” he said. “We fear he may have died for what he loved.”
On Saturday, motorcycle taxi drivers beat freelance journalist Paul Kiggundu to death while he filmed them demolishing a house in southwest Uganda. Police have not yet arrested any suspects, local journalists told CPJ.