Police, journalists can work together

Wednesday November 13 2019

 

By Simon J. Mone

The sight of running battles between police and demonstrators leaves one wondering whether there will be a day when demonstrations can be allowed to continue peacefully. And the enthusiasm with which stick-wielding policemen confront students, business community, politicians, teachers, medical workers and everybody else, is mind-boggling. Will police ever keep away their guns and batons and refrain from using force? If excessive force and violence were to provide solutions to people’s grievances, then there would be no demonstrations in Uganda.
Besides, can engaging people [protestors] in dialogue to discuss their concerns take away police’s law enforcement mandate?
In order to find a solution to a problem, there must be the will by all parties to reach a compromise through round table talks. Here is the good thing about talking and providing feedback.
Whenever people have their say, it is an opportunity for government to learn and see how to change certain ‘bad’ practices or correct mistakes. The solution may even not be in sight, but allow people to have their say and find a way of granting their demands, even if it will be in the long-term. What we see today is brutality, which does not provide a solution to burning issues. Nearly every journalist you meet has their own story to tell about their ugly experiences of covering events in town, narrations that make you feel that it is a crime to be a journalist. Whereas the police think they are enforcing the law, demonstrators believe the police are being high-handed. It gets that messy.
When a journalist covers a demonstration, they expose the police officers ugly actions. And in nearly all cases, the police are captured on camera beating-up people, including passersby. It is an embarrassment. Recently, protesting Makerere University students experienced the worst of police brutality. It was all anarchy. The manner in which things were handled left a lot to be desired, although calm has since returned at the university.
Continuous strikes are not good for the image of the country as well as the university and that is why they should be handled properly. There could be serious consequences, if solutions always remain in the promise always. Find lasting solutions for professional and healthy relationship between government, police and journalists. Each set of agency must stick to their roles and be seen to act professionally, even if it is painful at times. When demonstrators abuse the police, it is bad, but the police should still be professional.
To build harmony between police and journalists, trust is vital. The police must trust that journalists will report accurately and fairly about police actions. Journalists should always give a correct account of the issues they are covering. This relationship can be improved through strengthening cooperation and dialogue. The police should trust that journalists provide accurate, reliable and balanced information. The police should stick to the laws when dealing with demonstrators to avoid sparking off violence.

Simon J. Mone,
smone@mail.com

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