Court has found senior police officer Joram Mwesigye guilty of assaulting WBS TV journalist Andrew Lwanga in a January 2015 incident.
Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu on Friday fined the former Old Kampala district police commander sh1 million for causing bodily harm to the journalist, and ordered him to pay sh5 million in compensation. He was however acquitted in the second charge of destroying the journalist’s camera.
Lwanga was covering a protest march against unemployment in the capital, Kampala on January 21 2015, when Mwesigye and other policemen he led repeatedly hit him with a baton on his shoulders and head until he fell down. As he was falling down, the officer kicked him on his back, damaging his spine.
Amnesty International’s East Africa Researcher Abdullahi Halakhe described the ruling against the journalist’s attacker a rare victory for press freedom.
“Today’s ruling is a rare victory for freedom of the press in Uganda. It sends a clear message that attacks on journalists must never be accepted or tolerated under any circumstances. It will hopefully assure people working in the media that the courts are watching; willing and ready to uphold their rights,” said Halakhe.
Lwanga still suffers unbearable pain two years after the attack and has been unable to resume work. He has undergone expensive surgery in South Africa to try to repair his spinal cord, and is awaiting a second operation.
“Press freedom has become increasingly restricted in Uganda with numerous attacks on media outlets seen as critical of the government in the past year. Today’s court decision offers a chink of light in an otherwise bleak outlook and demonstrates that the judiciary is prepared to defend freedom of expression,” said Halakhe.
Lwanga and five others were beaten and arrested at Florina bar and guest house along Namirembe Road, during a demonstration by the unemployed youths, who had first gathered at JEEMA Offices in Mengo that morning.