ChimpReports, Uganda’s prominent online news outlet, on Friday strongly condemned an assault on one of its reporters, Dedan Kimathi, by goons, police personnel and the military as he covered FDC presidential candidate Patrick Amuriat in Nebbi, Northern Uganda.
The incident took place at Nebbi stadium where Amuriat was expected to hold a campaign meeting.
Amuriat arrived at the stadium at 5:50pm only to discover that a football match was underway.
He was temporarily blocked from accessing the stadium but later allowed to watch the game on condition that he avoids campaigning or interacting with fans.
For some time, Amuriat watched from his car but towards the end of the match, he chose to greet some nearby spectators.
At that point, Kimathi, who was watching the game from the media van, jumped down to take some pictures.
All of a sudden a scuffle broke out.
As Kimathi was trying to return to the van, an unknown assailant tried to grab his camera.
“I tried to protect my camera but the man wrestled me to the ground. What happened was a combination of punches and kicks coming from two UPDF soldiers who tried to take the camera. Police and hooligans protected by security services joined in and beat me,” recalled Kimathi.
“In the process, I sustained a cut on my lower left eye,” he added.
Before Kimathi was beaten, Amuriat’s driver, a one Fabian, was roughed up before being dumped at Nebbi police station.
“So after beating me, security told me to delete footage only to realise that I didn’t have footage of the fracas,” said Kimathi.
The reporter was taken to hospital and is in stable condition.
In a statement, ChimpReports said it would “continue to provide coverage to all candidates and defend the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. Journalism is not a crime.”
Today’s incident shines a spotlight on the shrinking space for the media as the country prepares for the 2021 general elections.
Over the last seven weeks, over 15 journalists have been attacked, injured, and/or arrested as they covered 2021 election-related events.
“The increasingly brazen and arbitrary clampdown on independent journalism and civic space in the run-up to the general elections is a cause of serious concern,” said Dr Peter G. Mwesige, the executive director of African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME).
“These infringements on media and civic space do not augur well for peaceful elections and the general stability of the country,” Dr Mwesige said.
“We demand that the government upholds and respects the roles
and rights of all citizens and stakeholders in this elections,” he added.
Media houses are frustrated at what they see as security services’ tightening grip over their work.