On Wednesday, April 28, two journalists were assaulted by members of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces.
The two, Teddy Nakaliga from NTV and Amon Kayanja from Salt TV were covering a demonstration by residents in Kayunga, Wakiso District, who were protesting a two week power blackout.
We reported in our story of April 29 titled “Soldiers brutalise journalists” that the reporters’ equipment including phones and cameras where destroyed. Less than a week ago, Enock Matovu, a reporter at NTV was battered by soldiers in Mityana.
This comes on the backdrop of an apology by the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, to journalists who had been battered by millitary police on February 17 while covering National Unity Platform’s Robert Kyagulany, who was delivering a petition to United Nation Human Rights Council offices in Kololo.
In that apology, he said investigations would be carried out and officers involved prosecuted individually and that the Force respected media relations.
In the spirit of reconciliation, activities were even organised under the theme, “Security and media: Working to close the gaps that hinder a credible partnership”. These activities included a friendly football match between UPDF and media on April 16.
It is, therefore, disappointing, that less than a month later, before some journalists are even fully recover from the injuries they sustained from the February 17 incident, the same is happening again.
We appreciate the army leadership’s verbal commitment to improving media relations and rights of journalists, but this is a long way from being reflected in the actions and behaviour of their officers.
Is it impossible for this promise of mutual respect to trickle down the ranks? What should journalists do to be taken seriously once and for all? How long before we see these commitments reflected in the way millitary officers treat journalists regardless of where in the country they are?
This recent act of assault on the two journalists is a mockery of all the efforts taken by media rights organisations and other stakeholders to ensure that the wrongs of the past are made right.
But as is expected of any cause worth its name, tangible results usually take a while and persistence is key in achieving the desired goals. However, this shouldn’t be the reason why journalists continue to be abused and assaulted. We will not tire to call out abusers of journalists rights and demand that justice be done.
Hopefully, the military can do the same, be seen to aggressively put its deviant officers in line until gaps that hinder a credible partnership are closed.