7 UPDF soldiers have been sentenced for assaulting journalists in Uganda.
According to UPDF Deputy Spokesperson Lt Col. Deo Akiiki, Capt Jessy Odwenyi, Cpl Nimusiima Justine, Pte Wasswa Peter, Pte Tsame Imran, Pte Kisakye Victoria, Pte Opiyo Isaac and L/cpl Zirimenya Kassim were on Thursday sentenced over assault on members of the fourth estate.
UPDF Chief of Defense Forces, General David Muhoozi, on Thursday apologized to the media fraternity and pledged to take action against the army officers who meted brutality against journalists yesterday.
Lt Col Deo Akiiki said the 7 errant UPDF soldiers were arraigned before the military court martial over the incident. Capt Odwenyi was sentenced to 90 days of detention in Makindye military barracks. L/CPL Zirimenya Kassim was also charged with 60 days while Captain Nimusiima Justine was sentenced to severe reprimand.
About Five journalists were hospitalized after sustaining serious injuries after they were beaten up by military personnel on Wednesday, an incident that has since attracted wide public condemnation. The journalists were covering the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) principal Robert Kyagulanyi as he petitioned the UN Human Rights office in Kampala over alleged human rights violations in Uganda.
In a press conference held at the Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Kamapala, Gen Muhoozi said the incident is regrettable and was not sanctioned by the army. He also pledged to investigate and bring those culpable to book.
“The incident in which some members of the press were assaulted yesterday by some of our soldiers is regrettable. And on behalf of UPDF I apologize for this behavior. Their actions were not sanctioned nor justified” Gen Muhoozi said.
“I am here to tell you that this was a mistake by individuals; the operation was not sanctioned by us. Nobody sent these people because when we send out people, we give them rules of engagement. These went into excesses and that’s why we are working to establish what happened and to hold those responsible accountable” He added.
Gen Muhoozi also added that UPDF will clear medical bills of the journalists.
The affected journalists include NBS TV’s Josephine Namakumbi, Timothy Murungi and Henry Ssekanjako of the New Vision, John Cliff Wamala of NTV, Irene Abalo Otto of Daily Monitor, and Shamim Nabakooza of Record TV.
In separate statements, journalists’ bodies, civil society groups, religious leaders and international organizations condemned the actions of the army as a violation of their press freedom and a violation of individual rights.
The UN Human Rights Commission country representative Mr Robert Kotchan said the excessive force used by the military on journalists contravenes the agreement with GOU regarding the safety and security of UN premises, personnel and guests as well as national and international commitments.
UNHRC also stated that the Republic of Uganda should immediately investigate the incident and culprits brought to justice and as well respect its commitment to peace, justice, human rights and development.