Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda

Enoch Matovu, a correspondent for a local television station (NTV, in the Mityana District), was reportedly shot in the head while covering an incident of vote rigging during the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party elections at Bulera police station in the Mityana district. He sustained a bullet injury to the head.

Matovu told HRNJ-Uganda that he was covering the incident and never saw who shot at him in the scuffle: “I saw the local people opening the car and removing the ballot papers which they scattered around the police station, and that’s when I stopped understanding. I later discovered that I was admitted [to] Mityana Hospital,” Matovu narrated. Two unidentified men have so far been arrested and detained at the Mityana police station, according to police.

The scuffle ensued when an unidentified man turned up at a polling station near the police with ballot papers, and could not ably explain where he got them. The local people became hostile and wanted to lynch him, but he managed to escape and hid inside the police station. His car was broken into, and the ballot papers were scattered by angry locals. Matovu is still undergoing treatment.

In a related development, a Vision Group journalist, Haruna Mugerwa, was assaulted on 27 October 2015, while covering a story in which a police officer, Corporal Mbirimu Michael, was implicated in vote rigging when he was reportedly found with some pre-ticked ballot papers hidden in his shirt and gumboots, hours before the NRM party elections. Mbirimu was arrested and locked up in a private car at Mbirizzi trading center.

Mbirimu was removed from the car and put on a police patrol amidst gunshots by the Lwengo District Police Commander Muhwezi Ronald. This prompted Mugerwa to jump on the police patrol, to flee from a crowd which had turned rowdy, hence angering one of the contender’s supporters who trailed the police patrol up to Lwengo police station, where they pounced on Mugerwa and started beating accusing him of boarding a police patrol car. He sustained injuries to the neck, and his camera was destroyed. He opened up a case of assault and malicious damage to property at Lwengo police station.

In another incident, a journalist working with NBS television, Kataggwa George, was arrested and detained by police for a night, on 26 October 2015. Police accused him of covering a meeting that was deemed “political” and not open to the public. The meeting was held at Musana restaurant in Muhooro, Kibaale district. His camera was confiscated by the police. Kataggwa and a workmate, Bahati Remmy, were covering a scuffle between the Buyaga West County Member of Parliament, Barnabas Tinkasimire and Dennis Namara, who were contesting to be the NRM party flag bearer for Member of Parliament Buyaga West Constituency, Kibaale district in Western Uganda. Tinkasiimire was accusing Namara of bribing police officers to intimidate his supporters. Kataggwa was released without a charge and his camera was returned.

“We call on the police to bring the perpetrators of such violence against journalists to book, and also ensure the safety and security of journalists during the course of their work,” said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.