Geoffrey Okot, a journalist working with Choice FM in Gulu district, was allegedly assaulted on June 16, 2019 by Aruu County Member of Parliament Odonga Otto.
According to reports, Okot together with his fellow journalists were set to cover a football match between Acholi Province and West Nile Province organised by Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) at Pece War Memorial Stadium. The journalists had convened at a point reserved for them by the football authorities.
Reports say before the match could start, spectators moved close to the pitch prompting the area leaders that included Otto, Gilbert Olanya and Anthony Akol among others to push them away so as to create space.
Otto is said to have moved to the area where the journalists had convened and punched Okot on the back and around the neck. Okot tried to explain that he is a journalist but Otto could not stop punching him.
“I was squatting at the stadium with my fellow colleagues waiting for the match to begin. From nowhere, Odonga Otto punched me around the neck and the back until I knelt down. I explained to him that I am a journalist but he was arrogant. He said he doesn’t care because I am a journalist from a fake media house,” Okot told Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), adding that he is experiencing a lot of pain and is expected to meet an orthopedic at Gulu Referral Hospital for further management.
Okot’s narrative is corroborated by Willy Ochwoo, a fellow journalist who was at the scene, “we were about 20 journalists accredited by FUFA Drum organisers to cover the match. In the area where we were squatting, spectators had drone close to the pitch forcing the area members of parliament to push them backwards. Okot was squatting at the extreme end where the journalists had convened. From nowhere, Odonga Otto punched him on the back and the neck,” Chowoo told HRNJ-Uganda.
Okot has opened up an assault case at Gulu Central Police Station vide 50/16/06/2019 and is yet to record a statement.
When the Regional Spokesperson for Aswa Region, Jimmy Okema was contacted by HRNJ-Uganda about the incident, he said, “I have not got details about that concern because the Deputy IGP was around and we spent the whole of yesterday traversing the region. Am also getting concern from some journalists trying to inquire about the same incident. But if i get the details, I will let you know,” said, Okema.
‘It is so disheartening that an area Member of Parliament who is expected to be exemplary to the people he leads beat up a journalist. We condemn such actions in the strongest terms. We implore the Uganda Police to expeditiously handle the matter so that the journalist gets justice.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director, Robert Ssempala.