Ugandan journalists, particularly those involved in covering political meetings in the ongoing election season have been cautioned to put their lives and safety first.
The warning was sounded on Monday by Police spokesperson Fred Enanga while addressing press in Kampala.
Citing incidents where reporters have been injured or arrested in recent political riots, Enanga said journalists should not endanger their lives by going deep into dangerous riot situations.
“Our advice to you is that no news story is worth your life,” he said.
“You should try to emulate those big international media houses. For them when they realize that the situation is not safe they will no send their reporters there.”
He noted that in most cases, reporters end up “getting embedded with the rioters” which makes it hard for police to identify them.
Citing a recent case in Jinja involving an NBS journalists who was arrested for allegedly crossing a police barricade, the Police spokesman also advised reporters to respect police guidelines.
He however reiterated that police will continue to provide protective cover to reporters who are in the field as recently directed by the Inspector General of Police.
Meanwhile, Mr Enanga said police and the military had learnt a number of lessons from last week’s riots in which dozens of people were shot dead.
Enanga said today that a several mistakes had been made as a result of lack of preparedness and underestimation of the situation.
“The security intelligence teams had not anticipated this level of violence in some parts,” Enanga said.
“We also had cases where our response teams came in too late. For instance, in Kisenyi our officers arrived at the scene two hours late and found when the rioters had taken over the whole community,” he said.
“So we resorted to the use of the means which we used in order to gain control. But we have learnt our lessons. For instance, the following morning we resorted to the use of batons and the situation greatly improved.”
While there has been disputes on how many people were killed in the riots, Enanga said today that the official death toll from post mortem reports currently stands at 45.