Media Siege: Journalists Slap Ban on Police Activities

More than 20 journalists under Luweero Journalists Association have slapped a media blackout on Police activities in the area in protest against the ongoing media siege and police brutality.  

The ban announced on Tuesday, comes nine days after police raided Daily Monitor and Red Pepper headquarters allegedly in hunt of a letter written by General David Sejusa aka Tinyefunza, the Coordinator of Intelligence Services. In the letter general Ssejusa calls for investigations into a plot to bump off senior army officers and politicians opposed to attempts by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi replace him once he retires from power.

On Tuesday, police brutally dispersed a solidarity demonstration organized by journalists outside the Daily Monitor headquarters in Namuwongo.  Police also picked up two journalists including Mulindwa Mukasa and William Ntege. Two other journalists Sudhir Byaruhanga of NTV and Ssebagala Wokulira, the coordinator Human Rights Network for Journalists sustained injuries after they were assaulted by heavily armed anti riot police deployed to break up the demonstration.

Now, Dan Wandera, the secretary general Luweero Journalists Association says they have decided to boycott all police activities in the area to protest the media siege and police brutality targeting journalists.

He accuses police of using excessive force to break up a peaceful demonstration held by journalists to express their dissatisfaction with the police siege of Daily Monitor, its sister Radio stations KFM, Dembe FM and Red pepper publications. Wandera contends that, the rights to demonstrate and press freedom are enshrined in the constitution of Uganda and UN charter, which have all been violated by the force. He says that as journalists they see no reason, why they should continue covering police activities, despite the fact that it does not respect press freedom and the rule of law.

Wandera says that they will send a copy of their resolution to the  Nakaseke, Luweero and Nakasongola district police commanders to know that they have severed any working relationship until police withdraws from the besieged media houses. Bernard Bakalu, a journalist with Radio One supports the ban saying the siege has affected the livelihood of several media practitioners.

Samuel Kaweesi, a freelancer with Daily Monitor says the closure of  the media house has left him in abject poverty and he has no hope of receiving any money this month.

Kaweesi believes police is no longer searching for a letter but aims at penalizing the closed media houses. He calls for the intervention of donor countries to compel government to reopen the closed media houses. Culton Scovia Nakamya, a freelance journalist with Prime Radio says that police siege of the media indicates that they are no longer respecting rule of law but promoting individual interests.

She says the clamp down on Daily Monitor and Red Pepper has had a chilling effect on the way journalists are covering issues of national importance. Nakamya says she will respect the association resolution and will not cover any police activity. Godfrey Ninsiima, the Luweero District Police Commander describes the ban as ‘’transferred anger” because their relationship with journalists in the area has been good. Ninsiima says they have nothing they can do because the issue of the closed media houses is being handled by their bosses.

Speaking to URN Reporter on phone from Kampala on Tuesday evening Ssebagala Wokulira, the Coordinator for Human Rights Network called for a national media ban on police activities. He said ongoing media siege is not only a threat to their business interest, but also to the lives of journalists. Wokulira who was fighting to secure the release of two journalists picked up by police on Tuesday, says they will continue with their protests to compel police to withdraw from the closed media houses.

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