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AFP journalist pepper sprayed by police for covering the arrest of former opposition presidential contestant. (Demo)

Kasangati, 22nd\February\2016; A photo journalist Isaac Kasamani of AFP, an international news agency was today 22nd February 2016 pepper sprayed by police while taking pictures of police arresting former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Presidential Candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye from his residence in Wakiso District. Another journalist, Abubaker Lubowa survived narrowly, while other journalists were blocked from accessing the news scene.

Since Saturday 20th February 2016 police under the command of the Division Police Commander (DPC) of Kasangati Police Station James Kawalya has barred journalists from accessing Kizza Besigye’s home and taking pictures of events unfolding.

They did not want us to cover the arrest of Besigye, but when I saw Besigye’s car approaching the police blockade, I moved closer but the police were pushing me telling me not to take pictures. When I took the pictures a plain clothed man pepper sprayed me in the eyes. There was also a police officer in civilian attire taking our photographs.” Kasamani told HRNJ-Uganda.

Abu Baker Luboowa of the Daily Monitor who was also taking pictures with Kasamani told HRNJ-Uganda that “they were targeting both of us but I narrowly survived the pepper spray. The DPC Kawalya handed the plain clothed man with the pepper spray and ordered him to work on us as we photographed Besigye.”

However, the DPC Kasangati, James Kawalya when contacted by HRNJ-Uganda said “I cannot tell who did it but I told journalists not to come close to the blockade, when they saw Besigye coming they disobeyed our orders.”

Police has on several occasions targeted journalists covering the opposition politicians without any justification. It was unreasonable for the police to pepper spray a journalist, since he was not a threat by doing his work. Blocking journalists from accessing news scenes is unjustified, intended to deny Ugandans their right to know what is happening in their country. Police should take action against perpetrators of violence against journalists,” said Robert Ssempala the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

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