Amuru, 13th/June/2017; A group of Uganda Peoples Defence Forces, police officers and plain clothed men attacked three NBS Television journalists—Sabiti Joseph, Stephen Musoke and Bonny Ojok— on 12th June 2017 and ordered them to delete footage of the arrest of the locals in Pabbo subcounty, Amuru District.
“We were at Pabbo subcounty covering the arrest of youths, security personnel that included police officers, army officers and plain clothed men ordered us to delete the footage,” Sabiti told HRNJ-Uganda, adding that the officers were claiming that the journalists had not got permission from the Officer-In-Charge of Pabbo Police station to do any journalistic work.
It is alleged that the police officers did not want the journalists to expose the ruthless arrests of the youths who were picked from their homes and others from the bushes where they had hidden.
When contacted by HRNJ-Uganda, Patrick Jimmy Okema, the Regional Police Spokesperson of the Aswa Region, responded, “I received a call from the police spokesperson Asan Kasingye asking me about the same. He told me he was going to give my phone number to the journalists, but up to now, I haven’t received any call from any journalists. I don’t know if the information is correct or not,” Okema told HRNJ-Uganda.
The journalists were in Amuru District covering a land wrangle between the Acholi and the Madi communities in Northern Uganda.
Since the end of the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in Northern Uganda, Amuru District has had an increase in the number of land disputes as people who returned from the internally displaced camps have fought over land. The Acholi and Madi communities claim ownership of the disputed forty (40) square kilometres, and the land wrangles have escalated into people losing their lives and others fleeing their homes.
“The actions of the security personnel against these journalists cannot be tolerated- journalists play a crucial role in increasing transparency and sharing information about what is happening in communities across Uganda. The fact that these journalists were forced to delete their footage is an example of how press freedom is under constant attack in Uganda,” said Robert Ssempala, HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.