By HRNJ Uganda
Journalists covering the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye campaign came under attack on 22nd December 2015 when the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah’s supporters mobbed them with clubs and stones in Gulu, Northern Uganda.
NTV’s Ronald Galiwango and NBS TV’s Anthony Palapande fell victim as they covered a controversy over a campaign venue at Aket Ket Primary School in Lalogi Sub County, Gulu District which was meant for Besigye, but got occupied by the Oulanyah camp prior to Besigye’s arrival to the venue. This prompted the Gulu Woman Member Of Parliament AOL Ochan to approach the Oulanyah team to question their action. The two journalists were covering the events although the police tried to stop them in vain. Oulanyah supporters reacted by mobbing up the journalists.
“It was a very bad and ugly incident -only that we were not badly injured. Oulanyah’s supporters just stoned me. One of them nearly hit me with a hoe on the head if it was not removed from him by another supporter. The Deputy Speakers’ guard just looked on as one Nuwagaba commanded them to block us.” Galiwango told HRNJ-Uganda.
“Oulanyah’s guards tried to block us when they saw us recording the events. This prompted the supporters to attack us. I got injured on the knee because I fell as a tried to flee the mob. I was hit on the back. My video camera fell in the process and saved by NTV’ Brian who picked it up and ran away. “Palapande told HRNJ-Uganda, adding that one of Oulanyah’s police body guards grabbed him as he tried to flee, “he wanted to hand me over to the mob. He grabbed me by the neck and collar. I feel a lot of pain on the neck and shoulder.” Palapande narrated.
Other victims included NTV’ driver Brian Walusaga who was hit with a club at the back and journalists Francis Tumwekwasize, Jjingo Francis, Jordan Mubangizi and Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi among others.
HRNJ-Uganda learnt that the police and Deputy Speaker’s guard did not protect the journalists against the mob which exacerbated the situation. No arrests were made. Oulanyah’s team later vacated the venue for Dr. Besigye to hold his rally.
Over a dozen journalists have been attacked by the police, politician or their supporters while on duty, especially those covering opposition related activities in the last two months.
“This trend of events is extremely worrying for the media in Uganda especially those covering presidential candidates. The Inspector General of Police should ensure that the police protects journalists, and also arrest those who violate their freedoms and rights, for the media plays a critical role in elections.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala