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Sep-19-2010 13:13printcomments

Violent Attacks on Ugandan Journalists

HRW indicate ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression could undermine prospects that the elections scheduled for early 2011 will be free and fair.

A group of people listen to the radio in Soroti District, Uganda. © 2008 Dan Chung
A group of people listen to the radio in Soroti District, Uganda. © 2008 Dan Chung

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Ugandan authorities are urged to take seriously and act swiftly against the unprecedented violent attacks of two journalists in less than a week. Investigators are advised not rule out the possibility they were politically motivated and, or linked to the victims’ work as journalists.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in May detailing the violence against journalists in Uganda and the repeated curtailing of the media. Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch “As Uganda heads into elections in early 2011, the government needs to demonstrate a commitment to transparent investigations into official misconduct and to free speech.”

Presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place in February and March 2011.

September 10, 2010, Paul Kiggundu, correspondent of Top Radio and several TV stations was lynched by an angry crowd in the southern town of Rakai.

“I deplore the death of Paul Kuggundu,” said Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. “He died in the exercise of his mission as a journalist, covering the news so that the public could be informed. His murder is a tragic illustration of the risks media professionals take every day in the name of freedom of expression.”

Dozens of motorcycle taxi drivers, beat the freelance journalist to death Saturday evening. Accusing him of gathering evidence for the police, they beat him unconscious despite his attempts to explain that he was a journalist. He died while being taken to hospital.

“CPJ sends its deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Paul Kiggundu,” said Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on the Ugandan police to do their utmost to bring these perpetrators to justice. No journalist should be killed simply for carrying out their profession.”

The police are investigating, so far no arrests have been made. Kuggundu was buried Sunday, leaving behind a wife and two children, aged 3 years and 18 months.

“We are deeply shocked by this barbaric behaviour that resulted in the death of a journalist” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) told Salem-News.com. “His murder could have been avoided if the crowd had taken the time to identify him. This incident highlights the frequency to which journalists are exposed to violence because they are on the front line of demonstrations, conflicts or events that get out of control and are seen as unwanted witnesses.”

September 13, 2010, unidentified assailants beat and killed news presenter Dickson Ssentongo, Monday morning on his way to work at Prime Radio in Mukono district, central Uganda.

“Authorities must do their utmost to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, especially at this politically sensitive time in the lead-up to national elections. CPJ sends its condolences and sympathies to the family and colleagues of Dickson Ssentongo,” said Tom Rhodes.

Assailants beat Ssentongo with metal bars and dragged him into a nearby cassava field, he was found by a farmer lying in a pool of blood a few yards from where he was attacked. He was rushed to Mulago Hospital, where he died several hours later.

Ssentongo, had been presenting the news on Prime Radio for the past two years and a part-time court assessor for the Mukono High Court. He was also running for a position in the Democratic Party, one of the leading opposition parties to the ruling National Resistance Movement.

District police commander, Musoni Alphonse, said they “suspect the murderers had trailed Ssentongo and knew his daily movements.” Neither his money nor his mobile phone was taken, a clear indication that robbery was not the motive.

Ssentongo’s colleagues believe the murder was politically motivated, although Prime Radio chiefly deals with social issues, sources indicate Ssentongo would promote the parties’ political activities on the radio whenever he could. “He was unmarried and passionate about politics; we fear he may have died for what he loved.”

HRW indicate ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression could undermine prospects that the elections scheduled for early 2011 will be free and fair.

*1 A Media Minefield: Increased Threats to Freedom of Expression in Uganda hrw.org/node/90067

Sources:

  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Reporters without Borders

________________________

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: alysha.atma@gmail.com




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