Human Rights activists and media practitioners have condemned the Minister without Portfolio, Mr Abraham Byandala, for punching a female journalist at the Anti-Corruption Court premises on Wednesday.
Mr Byandala, who was at the court for hearing of his case in connection with the Shs24 billion loss in the Mukono-Katosi road saga, appears on video releasing a devastating punch, which left Ms Judith Naluggwa of Bukedde TV holding her belly in excruciating pain.
Mr Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said in a statement such acts are aimed at restricting the practice of journalism.
“They (acts) are aimed at threatening truth telling. They are acts orchestrated by insincere people who have something to hide. Assaulting a journalist is not only unfortunate but also a sign of weakness by those who do it,” he said.
Mr Kaheru said: “Beyond the authorities acting, we the people must rise up against such unbecoming, barbaric and native approaches of endangering truth telling and the practice of journalism.”
Minister speaks out
However, the minister denied the accusations of assaulting the journalist, saying; “she should stop being used.”
“You know I am 60 years plus. I have been with my wife for years and I respect women. If you were there at court, somebody could see. But she talks about a wound, how can someone be boxed and she does not make noise?” he said in telephone interview.
Mr Robert Ssempala, the national coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda, asked law enforcement agencies to bring the minister to book to ensure justice for the victim.
Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said they were still waiting for the complainant to record her statement.
Dr Peter Mwesige, the executive director African Centre for Media Excellence, said assaulting anybody in the line of duty is deplorable.
“Sometimes in their line of duty, journalists come off like a menace for those in trouble but it is important to understand it is a response to a call of duty. Just because you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean you should unleash your wrath on them (journalists),” Dr Mwesige said.
Ms Margaret Sentamu, the coordinator Uganda Media Women’s Association, described the assault on Ms Naluggwa as an attack on the profession and the women of the country.
“We demand for justice in this matter even amidst threats because this is an attack on the population where a leader and father chose to turn violent against the people he leads,” she said.
Fr Simon Lokodo, the State minister for Ethics and Integrity, condemned the act and demanded that his colleague apologises and ensures the matter is not taken to other levels.
Attacks on media
September 2005: Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire allegedly draws a gun at a Daily Monitor photographer, Mike Odongkara, at an accident scene at 2am.
August 27, 2008: Journalists Francis Tumwekwasize, Timothy Sibasi and Ibrahim Sadik are beaten by police officers at Namboole. Later, dogs are set on them as their commander, Leuben Muhabwe, watches. The reporter sue and win the case with damages.
September 6, 2010: Kampala businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba allegedly assaults a photojournalist Arthur Kintu, while taking photographs of him as he hands over money to NRM delegates at Namboole. The case is goes to court, though the two parties sort it out of court.
July 2012: Senior police officer orders a arrest of photojournalist Emmanuel Opio, while taking photographs of demonstrators in Lira District. Mr Opio is beaten by police officers. Police ordered Professional Standards Unit to investigate the case.
January 12, 2015: Andrew Lwanga, a journalist with WBS TV, is beaten by Old Kampala Division police commander Joram Mwesigye. The case is still on-going in court.