HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist covering epidemic outbreak assaulted by health ministry officials

Mityana, 14th/October/2014; a Vision Group journalist, Luke Kagiri, was on 11th October, assaulted by two men claiming to be Ministry of Health security officers as he covered a story of a man who is suspected to have died from Marburg. His camera was destroyed in the process by one of the men, Nkogyo Joseph who was traveling in a ministry of health vehicle. Another journalist, Enock Matovu of the Nation Media Group’s NTV used the rear gate of the hospital to escape the attackers.

Kagiri, a Board member of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview that he was attacked by two men who were traveling in a Ministry of Health vehicle Registration number UG 3803/M as he approached the medical workers at Mityana Hospital to find out the cause of death of the unidentified man, “He warned me against taking any coverage, lest he breaks my video camera. He immediately stepped forward and slapped me on the left cheek, he kicked me and I fell down. When I got up, I just walked out of the hospital, where he together with his accomplice pursued me further. The other guy got hold of me, pushed me on the ground and started beating me as Nkogyo repeatedly hit my camera on the ground; he destroyed it beyond repair. The duo fled the scene upon arrival of commercial cyclists who came to my rescue,” Kagiri narrated.

Kagiri said that the cyclists chased after the vehicle in which the duo was traveling which forced them to branch off to Mityana police post. Surprisingly, Nkogyo further assaulted Kagiri by slapping him four times in the presence of the police. They later deposited the destroyed camera at the police. “I used the opportunity to open up a case of ‘assault and malicious damage to property’. The two were immediately released on bond.

The Ministry of Health could not own or disown the said attackers, “I have no details of those persons, I have just heard about the said attack of the journalist in rumors, but that’s something we can investigate. Am waiting for the journalist to call me,” The Ministry spokesperson, Rukia told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. The ministry has however ruled out any Marburg outbreak in the country.

The area police spokesperson, Phillip Mukasa declined to comment on the status of the investigations into this matter, “ Am not aware of this matter, no one has informed me about it since I was away in another district, but let me follow it up.” He told HRNJ-Uganda

The police should expedite investigations into this matter and bring the perpetrators to book. It’s not clear why the duo were blocking any coverage of the matter if indeed they were from the health ministry. The ministry should come clean on Nkogyo and his accomplice who took the law in their hands. HRNJ-Uganda will ensure that justice is delivered in this matter,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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