This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on March 29, 2017.
Five youth supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party have been found guilty of assaulting three Entebbe-based journalists thereby occasioning them actual bodily harm and maliciously damaging their property contrary to sections 335 and 236 of the Penal Code Act respectively.
“The accused persons had the intention of stopping journalists from covering the events (elections). The complainants were just doing their work as journalists and them being stopped, beaten was willful and unlawful, therefore the accused persons are convicted as charged” said Mastula Mulondo
She added, “Offences of this nature are on the rise, it is the judicial system that can correct this behavior.” She sentenced the five to a fine of three million shillings (USD 845) each on all the three counts of assault and a community service at the Court premises for two hours daily for a period of 30days for the offence of malicious damage to property. Failure to pay or do the community service, each of the convicts will serve a jail term of six and four months respectively. .
Prosecution led by Christopher Muganzi, adduced evidence that on 4th March 2016, the convicted persons while at Entebbe Municipal Council offices, assaulted and damaged property of Kigongo Ssebalamu, Ssempijja Godfrey both of Vision Group and Kakooza George William of Central Broad Casting Services (CBS). The journalists were covering the Entebbe Local Council Elections.
HRNJ-Uganda’ Legal Officer Kenneth Ntende, who watched brief welcomed the judgment and commended court for coming out to defend the media and freedom of expression. HRNJ-Uganda’ National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala described the judgement as another milestone in defence of media freedom and the rights of journalists in the country
The journalists Kakooza, Sesebalamu and Ssempijja were all happy with the judgement and said that justice had been delivered to them.
The maiden hearing of this case on the 8th of August 2016 was characterized by further attacks on media personnel. After the hearing of the bail application in which the five accused persons were remanded to Kigo prison, in Wakiso District for failing to fulfill the bail conditions, their fellow party members attacked the journalists and others as a way to stop them from covering the accused’s transfer to the prison bus enroute to Kigo prison. It took the intervention of a prison’s warden who fired in the air to disperse the rowdy NRM supporters in a scuffle that almost lasted over half an hour. The HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala was injured in the process.