Police and UPDF on Wednesday accused National Unity Platform (NUP) president Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine of holding unlawful procession as they justified attack on journalists who were covering the former presidential candidate as he delivered his petition to the United Nation Human Rights offices in Kampala.
At least 10 journalists were left nursing injuries after military personnel attached to the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) assaulted them while covering Mr Kyagulanyi who was accompanied by relatives of Ugandans who have been abducted by security operatives during and after elections.
The injured journalists include John Cliff Wamala, Geoffrey Twesigye and Irene Abalo of Nation Media Group, Shamim Nabakooza of Record TV, Henry Ssekanjako, Timothy Murungi of New Vision, Rashida Nakaayi of Galaxy FM, Josephine Namakumbi, Joseph Sabiti and Thomas Kitimbo of NBS TV.
"Today we went to the UN Human Rights office in Kampala to deliver a petition against the continuing abductions, torture and murder of our supporters. The military was waiting. Right outside the gate of the UN office, they attacked and beat up journalists and elected leaders! In a very contemptuous manner, they descended on everyone they could land on and beat them without mercy. They smashed windscreens of the vehicles we went with. Several colleagues were rushed to hospital. Museveni will certainly not force us into submission," Mr Kyagulanyi tweeted.
However, Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Mr Patrick Onyango said they have opened an inquiry at Jinja Road Divisional Headquarters in Kampala to establish the circumstances under which journalists and other citizens were battered by military police an left nursing injuries.
Mr Onyango further said Mr Kyagulanyi who was reportedly scheduled to appear with three other NUP officials due to the Covid-19 protocols allegedly disregarded the guidelines and held an illegal procession and assembly involving boda bodas, motor vehicles and supporters walking on foot.
“Although we respect the rights of citizens to freely assemble and express themselves, the health and safety of all Ugandans and visitors, and rule of law remains our top priority. As a reminder, all unlawful rallies, assemblies and processions are still restricted under the health protocols in place. Therefore, due to the acts of overcrowding at the security perimeters near the UN offices, there was a great potential of breaching the security perimeter, which led to additional reinforcement that helped disperse the uncontrolled crowds,” Mr Onyango said.
“Unfortunately, a few people sustained injuries including journalists. We have opened an inquiry at Jinja Road Divisional Headquarters, to establish the circumstances under which the victims were injured. The findings will inform management on the next course of action,” he added.
The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Gen Flavia Byekwaso said the group assaulted one of the security personnel at the cutoff point and that required they be pushed back forcefully.
"The procession with boda boda riders waited to force its way through carrying among them the non-identifiable journalists. The group assaulted one of the security personnel at the cut off point and that required they be pushed back forcefully. Hence the scuffle. Therefore, it is not correct to allege that journalists were targeted," she tweeted.
However, Uganda Editors' Guild (UEG) and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have condemned the brutality and urged the leadership of security forces to rein in on the rogue officers, ensure justice is served and journalists are protected as they execute their duties.
"As we have noted before, we will continue to document collective attacks against journalists and the individual officers who carry them out and those with operational command. Attacks on journalists will not go unrecorded or unpunished. Impunity shall not be allowed to thrive," reads part of a statement issued by the Editors' guild.
According to the editors, attacks on journalists in Uganda is one of the continued sustained attacks on civil liberties including breaches to freedom of association prior and in the aftermath of 2021 General elections with the actions undoing all the efforts of constitutionalism and the rule of law that have been undertaken for many decades.
Since December last year, more than 20 journalists have been targeted and assaulted by security operatives while on duty.