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CDF Orders Arrest of Soldiers who Battered Journalists

The order comes a day after James Akena, a photographer working for Reuters news agency was beaten by UPDF soldiers, arrested and detained for several hours as he covered protests in Kampala.
The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen. David Muhoozi has ordered the arrest and punishment of soldiers who battered journalists during a Joint Operation on Kampala on Monday.

The order comes a day after James Akena, a photographer working for Reuters news agency was beaten by UPDF soldiers, arrested and detained for several hours as he covered protests in Kampala. The protestors were demanding the release of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, who is detained at Makindye Military Barracks.

Kyagulanyi was arrested in Arua on Tuesday, following clashes between supporters of Kassiano Wadri, the eventual winner of the Arua Municipality race and his rival Nusura Tiperu of the ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party. Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, was arraigned before the General Court Martial and charged with illegal possession of firearms.

But his detention has evoked emotions across the political divide, leading to a campaign dubbed #FreeBobiWine, and protests across major towns in the country. As hundreds police and military personnel engaged protestors in Kampala on Monday, they ruthlessly battered a number of journalists and confiscated their equipment.

Among those who were beaten or roughed up are NTV journalists Ronald Galiwango and Juma Kirya, as well as Observer photographer Alfred Ochwo.

“UPDF wishes to express its displeasure over such behaviour by those individuals, and as a result, the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) has ordered for their arrest and punishment” Reads a statement issued this afternoon by Defence Spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said.

The Ministry of Defense has also apologised to the journalists who were molested.

"While expressing apologies and sympathies to the individuals on whom pain was inflicted, we reiterate  our strong commitment to maintaining a strong partnership with the media fraternity in the course of executing our core functions as laid out in the Constitution." he added.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog issued a statement demanding that Ugandan police and military should immediately order a stop to attacks on the media and ensure that they fully respect and protect the rights of all protesters.

Oryem Nyeko, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch said that beating and arresting journalists are evidence the authorities want to cover up security forces' conduct and curtail the public's access to information.

“Ugandan security forces should show restraint while policing protests, acting lawfully and with full respect for human rights law, and let journalists do their job,” Nyeko said.