On April 28, a protest broke out in the central Uganda town of Kayunga as locals demonstrated against a two-week power outage.
Journalists were sent to cover the demonstration, including Amon Kayanja, who reports for a local television station.
On arrival, Kayanja pulled out his small video camera and started speaking to the demonstrators. But when police and military police were deployed to halt the protest, Kayanja and Teddy Nakaliga, a female journalist, found themselves under attack.
“They started beating us. We asked them why are they beating us? They were not giving us a reason. They broke my camera. The phone was destroyed. They had some sticks; they whipped us. They were chasing us away. We had nothing to do,” said Kayanja.
The International Press Institute says Kayanja and Nakaliga are two of more than 100 journalists who have been beaten during the course of their work in Uganda.
The latest incident, as recounted by the two journalists, comes two weeks after the top leadership of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces arranged a football match to improve relations with the media.
The army lost the game to media owners and reporters. But media personnel say they know those wins don’t matter much in daily life.
Brigadier General Flavia Byekwaso, the army spokesperson, said those responsible for the attacks will be held to account. She also said a lot more needs to be done to consolidate the military’s relationship with the media.
“We did this at a higher level, we haven’t moved to the ground. And this shows that the soldiers, need a lot of sensitization. We’ve just had this match, but we have plans to begin moving around the units to tell them actually what transpired. Because for them they saw the football. But they may not have made sense out of it,” said the spokesperson.
Frederick Juuko is a law professor at Makerere University. At the launch Monday of an editor’s guild association, he said that for the past 35 years, President Yoweri Museveni’s government has primarily used militarism to resolve issues not related to the armed forces.
“I don’t think it has the ability to, you see, restrain itself from using military means. You securitize all problems and accordingly provide security solutions. These in their character are oppressive and violate the rights of people, including of course the media,” said Juuko.
Media around the world are marking World Press Freedom Day Monday under the theme Information as a Public Good.