Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Journalists Association (UJA), an umbrella body for journalists in Uganda has announced a boycott of all police related activities following the recent incidents of rights violations against media practitioners.
Addressing journalists at their Kawempe based offices, UJA President Bashir Mbaziira Kazibwe has urged all reporters covering crime and police related activities to withhold their services until the force gives safety assurances to the journalists.
UJA’s resolution is in light of the recent student unrests and protests at Makerere University against the fees policy, where UJA says journalists were a target by both security agencies and the university authorities.
On Wednesday this week, police fired teargas among journalists who were covering student protests a long Sir Apollo Kaggwa road leaving several of them injured and others hospitalised.
According to UJA, several journalists including Alex Esagala, a nation media photo journalist under Daily Monitor, Geoffrey Twesigye, a photographer with NTV Uganda, Chris Ssemakula from BBS Television were injured by police while in line of duty.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Kitata of Vision group was also arrested while others last week also experienced violence by police while covering unrests at Makerere University. A URN reporter also had his reporting tools damaged in a scuffle between journalists and police on Wednesday last week.
“We as journalists, we are just messengers. We do not know why police officers are turning round against our members who only have pens, cameras, their phones and notebooks. We are not demonstrating and neither are protesting during the Makerere saga,” said Kazibwe.
Adding that; “We are saddened as an Association about what happened to a number of our colleagues ever since the strikes in Makerere started about a week ago. It’s unfortunate that the past three days have been dark days in the practice of journalism in Uganda. A number of our colleagues are still nursing wounds and a number of our colleagues having their machines confiscated or destroyed which we cannot accept to continue.”
UJA also urged media managers and owners to support the association in the struggle to have a favorable working environment for journalists.
On Monday November 4th 2019, UJA says they will hold a peaceful match from the constitutional square to Police Headquarters in Naguru where they hope to table their grievances to the police administration. On the same day, journalists say they will petition the speaker of parliament to urgently address the issues affecting them.
He urges journalists to cover other areas and put the coverage of police functions at a halt for the moment.
“To all members of the fourth estate, this is not just an individual. It is about the dreams we share, the aspirations we have and the responsibilities we have before the citizens of Uganda to serve them in a free, protected and safe environment. Let no journalist cover a police related activity,” said Kazibwe.
The Journalists association also expressed ‘deep’ concern over the continued violence meted on journalists by the Makerere University administration. “Most of us are proud of having gone through the able and capable hands of the lecturers at Makerere. But this is not the environment they prepared us for. This is the university that journalists went through. What is happening courtesy of the leadership at the university related to office of the vice chancellor in his bit to keep some stuff under the carpet,” Kazibwe observes.
According to Kazibwe, the association has received several complaints from journalists who cover Makerere university regarding threats from the university administration.
UJA says they need assurance from the security agencies that the right of media practitioners in Uganda while doing their duty will be guaranteed. The journalists body says government has not disciplined any officers who meted violence on NBS TV journalist, Joshua Mujunga and Reuters photojournalist, James Akena last year.