Kizza Besigye (Isaac Kasmani)
Kizza Besigye (Isaac Kasmani)

Uganda police beat journalists covering opposition leader

Nairobi, October 4, 2012–Ugandan police officers beat three journalists while they were reporting on the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye outside the Kampala Central Police Station today, according to news reports. The attacks are the latest in at least 10 cases of similar assaults documented by CPJ in several months.

“Ugandan police are engaged in a cynical and lawless cycle: Officers assault journalists covering news events, their superiors profess they will investigate but hold no one accountable, and then officers attack journalists again the next week,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on police to hold their officers fully accountable under the law and to ensure this pattern of assault comes to an end.”

A police officer ordered freelance journalist Isaac Kasamani to stop taking photographs of Besigye and slapped him, and then another officer pushed him to the ground, the journalist told CPJ. He said he suffered a swollen elbow and that his camera was broken. He also told CPJ that police prevented him from filing a complaint at the station.

Police officers also attacked William Ntege, a television reporter for the Wavah Broadcasting Service, and pushed him down the stairs of the station, local journalists said. Ntege hurt his leg and his video camera was destroyed, the journalists said. Police had also broken a camera belonging to Ntege in 2011, finally compensating it for him earlier this year. News reports said Ntege had used the money to buy the camera that was destroyed today.

Nicholas Mwesigwa, a reporter for the private daily Red Pepper, was also attempting to cover the opposition leader’s arrest when a police officer punched him, local journalists said. He did not suffer any serious injuries, the sources said.

Asuman Mugenyi, spokesman for the Kampala police, told CPJ that an investigation would take place into all the assaults. The Foreign Correspondent’s Association of Uganda reported that Police Commander Andrew Kaweesi told Kasamani that his camera would be replaced.

Police have attacked Kasamani and Ntege in the past while they covered demonstrations organized by opposition groups in Kampala, according to CPJ research. In January, Kasamani said a shot he believed was fired by police narrowly missed him, he reported in his paper, a claim police later disputed.

In 2011, CPJ documented at least 21 attacks of Ugandan police attacking journalists for covering events that involved the opposition.

  • For more data and analysis on Uganda, visit CPJ’s Uganda page here.