This statement was originally published on hrnjugnada.org on August 9, 2016.
Chaos broke out at Entebbe Magistrates Court on 8th August 2016 when five ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party mobilizers accused of assaulting and damaging journalists’ gadgets were remanded to Kigo prison.
The five NRM mobilizers, Lule Wamala Richard, Tibamanya Robert, Mubiru Arnold, Wasswa Hassan and Kuteesa Joshua appeared before Entebbe Grade 1 Magistrate, Mulondo Mastula, on charges of malicious damage to property and assault of three journalists; Kigongo Ssebalamu, Ssempijja Godfrey both of Vision Group and Kakooza George William of Central Broad Casting Services (CBS).
The accused pleaded not guilty and were granted cash bail of one million shillings each (400 USD) while the sureties were fused one million shillings not cash. However, the accused were unable to raise the bail money in time which resulted to their remand to Kigo prison.
The case was fixed for hearing on 24th August 2016. Prosecution, led by Nakato Lydia, alleges that on 4th March 2016, the accused 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. They sustained bodily injuries and their cameras were destroyed in the process.
Meanwhile, chaos broke out within the court compound when 12 journalists attempted to take pictures of the five accused boarding the prison bus. Over 50 NRM supporters who were at the court attacked the journalists and blocked them from capturing the event. A scuffle between the journalists and NRM supporters ensued forcing the prison warden to shoot in the air to disperse them. The journalists were rescued by Entebbe police that salvaged the situation.
“Journalists should stand firm to defend their rights. This matter is about the safety and security of journalists on duty and the rule of law, and should therefore not be politicized. The NRM party should prevail over its members against targeting and endangering the lives of the journalists on duty. We commend the police and prison officials for calming down the situation. We pray that court hears this matter expeditiously to ensure that justice prevails,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.