Four battered journalists drag government to court

L-R. Human Rights lawyer Eronie Kiiza with some of the journalists who were tortured at the offices of UN Human Rights  Headquarters in Kololo; John Cliff Wamala, Josephine Namakumbi, and Shamim Nabakooza at High Court in Kampala on March 03, 2021. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA.  

What you need to know:

  • Last month, several journalists were admitted to hospitals with serious injuries which they sustained when military police assaulted them while covering the National Unity Platform (NUP) president, Robert Kyagulanyi as he delivered a petition to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) offices in Kololo, Kampala.

Four journalists who were beaten at the United Nations Officers in Kololo last month have dragged the government to court over the continued harassment. 

In their lawsuit filed today before the High Court in Kampala, Mr John Cliff Wamala, Mr Geoffrey Twesigye both from NTV, Josephine Namakumbi (NBS) and Shamim Nabakooza (Record TV), are seeking a court declaration that beating, dispersing, chasing, and blocking journalists from doing their work is a violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press guaranteed by Article 29 of 1995 Constitution.

The respondents in this case are; Lt Col Franklin Namanya alias “Napoleon” and the Attorney General (AG).

The journalists are also seeking a court declaration that as media personnel, they are entitled to free practice in their work without any intimidation or battering from security agencies as this causes both physical and psychological torture. 

“As a participant and superior, the first respondent (Lt Col Namanya) is personally liable for his misconduct and that of the violent gang he supervised, commanded, and let loose upon the applicants on February 17 as they tried to perform their media duties,” reads in part the lawsuit.

Last month, several journalists were admitted to hospitals with serious injuries which they sustained when military police assaulted them while covering the National Unity Platform (NUP) president, Robert Kyagulanyi as he delivered a petition to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) offices in Kololo, Kampala.

The group in their affidavits in support of their case noted that on a fateful day while doing their official work, Mr Kyagulanyi and some members of his team were allowed entry into the premises of UNHRC, however, security personnel blocked the media from covering the submissions of the petition.

They further state that they were directed by police to converge in an area called a safe zone, however, in the nick of time a military pickup with men in security uniforms wielding guns, sticks and batons emerged from the back of the safe zone.

“They dramatically hopped off the trucks and came surging towards us and when we sensed danger, we ran to the opposite side,” reads in part Mr Wamala’s affidavit.

“The said military men looked already charged to harm us. One of the officers caught up with me and aimed for my head with a baton which hit me so hard. I lost balance and almost tripped off to the ground thus a sharp excruciating pain followed thereafter,” he further stated.

Ms Namakumbi states that Lt Col Namanya angrily shouted at them ordering them to leave thus letting other military officers run after them.

According to the court documents, the group states that how the court treats their case will set a precedent on how the officers will conduct themselves before journalists.

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