The beating of a pregnant journalist alongside another reporter yesterday by members of Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) has put to test the seriousness of the military’s promise to improve relations with the media.
Ms Teddy Nakaliga, a reporter with NTV and Spark TV, and Mr Amon Kayanja of Salt TV, were yesterday assaulted by Military Police personnel while covering a demonstration by residents protesting a two-week power blackout in Kayunga Village, Wakiso District.
The soldiers also destroyed the reporters’ equipment, including mobile phones and cameras.
The residents had blocked a section of Hoima Road and police and soldiers were sent to clear it.
Yesterday’s incident comes after another NTV reporter, Mr Enock Matovu, was battered by soldiers and admitted to Mityana Hospital with serious injuries on Thursday last week.
Mityana Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Herman Sentongo and Mityana District Police Commander Martin Okoyo promised to investigate the incident.
Mr Joseph Beyanga, the secretary general of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), said his organisation believes in proactive engagements to resolve issues, adding that he was engaging the Chief of Defense Forces, Gen David Muhoozi’s office on the matter.
“But I believe our memorandum of understanding (MoU) is intact and what is most important now is to have the contents communicated to everyone at every level, all the way to the lowest ranks. If violent behaviours continue after that communication has been done, we will go back to the drawing board,” Mr Beyanga said.
On April 16, at the UPDF headquarters in Mbuya, the military and NAB signed a memorandum of understanding in which the two parties agreed to treat each other with dignity, be mindful of the rights of each other as enshrined in various laws and the Constitution.
“Both parties shall develop a training plan to sensitise and train journalists on how operations should be covered and for the UPDF, on how journalists and media practitioners should be treated and handled during operations,” reads in part the agreement signed by Gen Muhoozi for the UPDF and NAB chairperson Kin Kariisa.
The Defense and army spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, told this newspaper that she wasn’t aware of the incident and could not, therefore, comment.
Mr Abubaker Lubowa, a journalist, in response to yesterday’s events, said the beating of a pregnant journalist was specifically worrying.
“That these guys can beat a pregnant journalist, is so worrying. I think the commanders did not brief their subordinates on what we agreed on. We had hoped for the better. I think what we signed on that day fell on deaf ears,” Mr Lubowa said.
The chief executive officer of the Human Rights for Journalists, Mr Robert Ssempala, called for action against the implicated military personnel since they were identified.
On February 17, several journalists were admitted to hospital with serious injuries they sustained after military police assaulted them while covering National Unity Platform (NUP) president, Robert Kyagulanyi who was delivering his petition to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) offices in Kololo, Kampala. Following the incident, the Chief of Defense Forces apologised to the journalists, saying investigations will be done and the officers involved would be prosecuted individually.