Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) officers attached to Kimaka Army Barracks on February 12, 2018 attacked Ivan Lubega, a Jinja-based journalist attached to Kiira FM and Bukedde TV, inflicted him with injuries on his right hand and destroyed his camera in the process.
Lubega was covering a scuffle in Jinja that had ensued over land in Kimaka which is next to the military barracks. The wrangle between army officers attached to Kimaka military barracks, parents, teachers and pupils of Guardian Kimaka Primary school started at about 9:00am.
It is alleged that the said school is located on land belonging to the army, and a letter written to the Headmaster James Muwaya directed him to close business by the end of 2017. However, on February 2 the school secured an interim court order restraining the army from accessing the land until the matter is disposed of.
When contacted, Lubega told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that while he and his colleagues Hakim Kanyere and Isaac Kintu of NBS and NTV, respectively, were covering the scuffle, the army officers started chasing after them but his colleagues managed to escape.
“Although I told the army officer that I am a journalist, he could not stop beating me…. he told me ‘toa kamera yako’ meaning, remove your camera. I sustained injuries on my right hand and my camera was destroyed,” Lubega told HRNJ-Uganda.
Lubega, who filed a case of assault and malicious damage to property vide SD 30/12/02/18 at Jinja Central Police Station, added that while at the police station, he met the army officer who was commanding the operation, a one Col Kihuta who allegedly told him: “The best you can do is to go back home and treat yourself because the army is part of the government and you cannot succeed in this case,” Kihuta told Lubega.
The Busoga sub region army spokesperson Lieutenant Amos Nsamba told HRNJ-U that he was disappointed with the manner in which the journalists were handled, adding that he does not support acts of beating up journalists in the line of duty. He advised journalists to wear press jackets for easy identification.
“We condemn this act of violence against journalists and the response Col. Kihuta gave towards the assaulted Journalist. It’s wrong for the state agents to use their powers to influence the justice system. We implore the Uganda Police Forces to handle the matter professionally and timely so that the journalist gets justice,” the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala, said.
And contacted on phone today, UPDF spokesperson Brigadier Richard Karemire said: “We look at the whole incident; the background, how it built up upto yesterday and solve it amicably. We bring all the sides together and solve it. I am issuing a statement shortly.”