The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen David Muhoozi, has ordered the arrest and punishment of soldiers who brutalised and harassed journalists who were covering a joint security operation against protestors who were on Monday demanding the release of jailed politicians including Kyaddondo East member of Parliament, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
The order comes after widespread local and global condemnation of UPDF soldiers’ brutality and harassment of journalists who were covering the recent political campaigns in Arua Municipality and the resultant arrest of politicians and riots in several parts of Kampala city on Monday.
A Tuesday statement by the Defence and Army spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire, says the leadership of the army condemns the soldiers' brutality.
“Attention has been brought to the leadership of the UPDF about the unprofessional conduct of the soldiers who molested some journalists while deployed on a Joint Operation in the capital city on Monday 20th August 2018,” a Tuesday statement by the Defence spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire reads in part. “UPDF wishes to express its displeasure over such behaviour by those individuals, and as a result, the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) has ordered their arrest and punishment.”
The journalists who have tested the brutality of members of security forces are; Mr Juma Kiirya (NTV), Mr Herbert Zziwa (NTV) , Mr Ronald Muwanga (NTV) , Mr Ronald Galiwango (NTV), Mr Julius Bakabaage (NBS), Mr James Akena (Reuters), Mr Samuel Kyambadde (Metro FM) and a one Richard (Ghetto TV).
Brig Karemire says: “While expressing apologies and sympathies to the individuals on whom pain was inflicted, we wish to reiterate our strong commitment to maintain a strong partnership with the media fraternity in the course of executing all our core functions as laid out in the Constitution.”
Kenyan editors react
Meanwhile, media practitioners under the Kenya Editors’ Guild umbrella, on Monday condemned the threats and attacks on journalists in the course of their work.
“Editors around the world and the international community see this as a serious affront to media freedom, freedom of expression and the people’s right to access information,” their Monday statement signed by Mr Churchill Otieno, the chairman, reads in part. “An attack on journalists in not only an attack on press freedom but also an attack on democracy and the societal and universal values relating to respect for human rights and human dignity.”
The Kenyan journalists say that the affected journalists were not contestants in the political competition and have committed no crime by carrying out their work, which is aimed at informing Ugandans and the rest of the world of the democratic and political processes in the country.
The scribes say in the statement that the world family of decent nations must not stand by as these sins are committed against journalists.
"The Uganda government must cease attacks and harassment of journalists, and the East Africa Community, the African Union, the United Nations and other friends of democracy have a duty to help underwrite freedom of expression for the people of Uganda," the statement reads.
It adds: "The action of security agencies in Uganda is a blatant attempt to silence journalists and deny Ugandans and the world the right to know and understand political and democratic events in that country. It must be condemned by all respectable individuals and nations, regardless of their positions or stations in society and the world."