The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, yesterday found himself in an awkward situation when journalists walked out of a meeting he had organised along with Fred Opolot, the Uganda Media Centre executive director.
The journalists walked out in protest of a new government proposal seeking to accredit scribes covering demonstrations.The meeting followed a ban on covering government press conferences after several journalists were attacked and beaten by security agents who also confiscated other equipment such as cameras and recorders on Thursday during the return of FDC leader Kizza Besigye from Nairobi.
“If we can have those (journalists) who cover such demonstrations accredited…I think it will work,” Gen. Kayihura said at the Uganda Media Centre yesterday, prompting the walk out.
There has been a spike in attacks on journalists in the country especially on those covering the walk-to-work campaign that started a month ago.
Gen. Kayihura said government is not asking for censorship of journalist’s work but accreditation of journalists who cover demonstrations and fairness in media reporting.
The journalists, however, said the accreditation will not only infringe on the freedom of the media but it is impossible to implement since most riots and demonstrations break out spontaneously.
Earlier, Gen. Kayihura, apologised to journalists for the inhumane treatment they suffered at the hands of security agents. He promised to investigate the incidents. He said there is a need for the media and police to work together because they are partners.
The Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists, Mr Wokulira Ssebaggala, presented a petition to Gen. Kayihura and sought another meeting to discuss the same issues.
“We are concerned about the deteriorating state of safety of journalists while on duty. All we want is respect of media freedom. We want those who beat journalists arrested and prosecuted,” Mr Sebaggala said.
In the Thursday incident, several journalists including Daily Monitor’s Mercy Nalugo and Stephen Otage, Mulindwa Mukasa of WBS TV and Joseph Buule of UBC TV were beaten by security officers.
Others journalists beaten were Patrick Ogwang, Eddie Ssejjoba, Kigongo Ssebalamu, Simon Njala, Rogers Kibirige and Noah Jagwe.
Security agencies returned the journalists’ confiscated tools but the footage and photographs of Dr Besigye’s return had been deleted.
Reported by Hadijah Mwanje, Isaac Kasamani & Andrew Bagala