Journalists under siege as authorities escalate assaults, raids and arrests

Journalists under siege as authorities escalate assaults, raids and arrests

Expression

On 1st February 2022, Police officers assaulted two NBS journalists, Eddie Kisseka and Samalie Kisakye, while covering a story on police officers receiving bribes from boda bodas (motorcycle riders) operating during curfew hours. The journalists claim that once the policemen realised that they were recording, they grabbed the camera and physically assaulted them, causing injuries to the journalists.

Responding to the incident, Robert Ssempala, Executive Director of the human rights network for journalists-Uganda, said:

“We condemn this act of violence against the journalists who were in the line of duty. The attack violates Article 40(2) of the 1995 Constitution which provides that every person in Uganda has the right to practise his or her profession and to carry on any lawful occupation, trade or business. We therefore implore the Uganda Police Force to handle the matter professionally and timely so that the journalists get justice.”

On 7th March 2022, freelance Ugandan based Spanish journalist Sadurni Carrasco Sumaya and her driver died in a car accident in Kiryandongo District. Faridah Nampiiga, the Public Relations Officer in the Police Traffic and Road Safety Department, reported that the duo died instantly in a head-on collision involving their car and a Fuso truck; and the truck driver escaped. Nampiima stated that police in Kiryadongo were looking for the driver. Opposition Members of Parliament however demanded an investigation into the journalist's reportedly "mysterious" death. According to Joyce Bagala, the Shadow Information Minister, the Spanish journalist covered Uganda's general elections in 2021 despite alleged intimidation, and her death in this manner raises questions.

On 10th March 2022, the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) raided the Alternative Digitalk TV, an online television platform, and confiscated equipment, including cameras, computers and the station's mobile van. Additionally, the UPDF arrested nine staff members, namely Tumuhimbise Norman, Mukose Arnold, Faridah Bikobere, Jeremiah Mukiibi, Tumusiime Kato, Tulyahabwe Roger, Nabukeera Teddy Teangle, Lillian Luwedde and Wabyona Jeje Jacob. The security forces did not disclose the reason for the arrests. However, Tumuhimbise was due to launch a book critical of President Yoweri Museveni on 30th March.

On 14th March 2022, the group's lawyers, led by Eron Kiiza, filed a plea in Kampala's High Court civil division, seeking orders for the group's mandatory and unconditional release after they had been detained for longer than the constitutional limit of 48 hours. According to their lawyer, the nine journalists were denied access to their lawyers and family members whilst in detention.

Separately but in a similar vein, 12 plainclothes officers also raided the Vision Group offices on the same day Alternative Digitalk TV was raided by UPDF officers (above). The security officers allegedly intended to detain Lawrence Kitatta, a Vision Group journalist who covered a demonstration on 21st February 2022 against Deputy Speaker Among's alleged mockery of MP Francis Zaake. While covering the protest, Kitatta was assaulted by a security officer attached to the Presidential Protection Guard who was guarding the Deputy Speaker. Kitatta claims he fears for his life and was receiving threats from unknown people since covering the protest.