This Alert was originally published by HRNJ-Uganda on February 22, 2016.
Agence France Presse, AFP journalist, Isaac Kasamani, has been pepper-sprayed by Uganda police, earlier today, February 22, 2016 while covering the arrest of opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, from his residence in Wakiso District, central Uganda. Another journalist, Abubaker Lubowa narrowly escaped the same fate, while other journalists were blocked from accessing the news scene.
Since Saturday February 20, the police, under the command of the Kasangati Division Commander, James Kawalya, have barred journalists from accessing the home of Kizza Besigye and taking pictures of the unfolding events.
“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 was 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.
Abubaker Lubowa of the Daily Monitor who was also taking pictures with Kasamani told HRNJ-Uganda that “they were targeting both of us but I narrowly escaped 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.