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UN condemns attack on Ugandan journalists by security personnel

By Betty Njeru and Reuters | February 18th 2021

Rashidah Nakayi, a journalist working with Uganda’s Galaxy FM receives treatment after she was injured following an attack by security officials, outside the UN Human Rights offices. [Reuters]

The United Nations has condemned the attack meted on Ugandan journalists and civilians yesterday.

Video clips from Ugandan media showed police officers beating up journalists who had gone to cover opposition leader Bobi Wine as he delivered a petition on alleged human right violations to the United Nations Office in Kampala.

In a statement, the UN acknowledged that prior to the meeting, members of the Uganda Military Police used excessive force “to prevent a number of persons accompanying the NUP delegation from accessing the Human Rights offices.”

“This behaviour contravenes the agreement with the government regarding the safety and security of UN premises, personnel and guests,” the UN office said.

The agency further called on the Ugandan government to probe Wednesday’s incident and bring the culprits to book.

Reuters reported that security personnel assaulted the journalists as they covered Wine.

Police said security personnel had dispersed “uncontrolled crowds” that had formed outside the UN office as Wine delivered the petition.

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 “Unfortunately, a few people sustained injuries including journalists. We have opened an inquiry ... to establish the circumstances under which the victims were injured,” a police statement said.

At least 20 journalists were hurt in the attack, with at least four sustaining deep cuts on the head, Stephen Bwire, Secretary General of Uganda Journalists Union told Reuters.

“We condemn this brutal, barbaric and heinous act,” Bwire said. “The journalists were doing their duty and they were clearly identifiable as journalists, they were not hostile, they were politely covering the events.”

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, lost last month’s presidential election to incumbent Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986.

Wine rejected the results and filed a court case seeking annulment of the poll, which he says was rigged.

To try to stem his growing popularity, authorities have cracked down on his supporters, using detentions and beatings.

“Today we went to the @UNHumanRights office in Kampala to deliver a petition against the continuing abductions, torture and murder of our supporters,” Wine tweeted on Wednesday. He accompanied the tweet with two images of some of the journalists who were assaulted.

Journalists have increasingly been targeted by security personnel. Bwire said they had documented at least 50 journalists injured by security personnel during the election period, including one who was killed.

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