Ugandan police on Saturday towed opposition leader Kizza Besigye's car with him inside. (Daily Monitor)
Ugandan police on Saturday towed opposition leader Kizza Besigye's car with him inside. (Daily Monitor)

Uganda police truck hits journalist filming Besigye

New York, April 2, 2012–A Ugandan reporter who was knocked off a motorcycle by a police tow truck on Saturday while covering the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been hospitalized for his injuries, according to local journalists. He was the sixth journalist attacked by security forces in the last 10 days, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ivan Kabaale of the private broadcaster Nile Broadcasting Service told CPJ he sustained internal bleeding and will need three to five days of treatment in a hospital in the central town of Entebbe.

Kabaale was filming as he rode on the back of a motorcycle alongside a convoy of security operatives who were towing Besigye’s car with him inside it. One of the police vehicles swerved at the motorcycle, knocking Kabaale and his driver to the ground and shattering his video camera. The vehicle drove away. “The police will say otherwise but it was on purpose,” Kabaale said, adding that officers did not allow him to file a complaint afterwards.

Prior to the collision, a plainclothes security agent had ordered Kabaale to surrender a videotape of Besigye’s arrest, but he managed to give the officer a blank tape instead, he said.

“The collision that injured Ivan Kabaale is the latest in a disturbing series of attacks on journalists by Ugandan police,” CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes said. “We’re also concerned that Ivan Kabaale was not allowed to file a complaint, an experience other journalists have reported as well. We call on Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura to investigate this collision, hold the driver accountable, and end this climate of impunity that his subordinates appear to enjoy.”

Police placed Besigye under “preventive arrest” in Kampala on Saturday, according to Police Deputy Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba, and towed the opposition leader’s car with Besigye and his political assistant, Sam Mugumya, seated inside. Police feared the opposition would disrupt an ongoing Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly, the world’s largest meeting of parliamentarians, which started in Kampala over the weekend, according to local reports. Police Chief Kayihura had previously announced that no demonstrations would be allowed in central Kampala during the assembly.

Besigye said at a press conference last week that he believes the police are targeting journalists covering anti-government demonstrations, according to local reports. The Ugandan Human Rights Network of Journalists is planning to halt coverage of police and security activities if the police do not apologize and investigate recent attacks, according to local reports.