Journalists have expressed concern that they are the deliberate target of security officials while going about their duties of covering news events.
Journalists say they have faced continual intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests and brutality at the hands of police and other agencies. They have asked the judiciary to look into their complaints as it seems to have turned a blind eye.
The journalists were particularly concerned that Security Minister General Elly Tumwine seemed to defend attacks on journalists.
Addressing himself to complaints by journalists, General Tumwine indicated that it is not possible to guarantee journalists will not be victims when they are covering a chaotic event.
Several journalists shared their experiences of being attacked by security agents. Photojournalist Alex Esagala remembers being attacked by soldiers while covering the age limit debate in parliament in 2017.
This was just the beginning though. In 2018, Esagala again found himself being beaten up while covering a demonstration by unemployed youth.
Nonetheless Esagala has refused to give up journalism though he wants more protection for practitioners of the craft.
Mistreatment of journalists trying to cover news events went viral as security officials were seen clashing with the press that was covering demonstrations at Makerere University over the 15% tuition increment.
Esagala and other journalists were stopped in their tracks as they tried to march to the police headquarters at Naguru to protest this mistreatment.
This however will not be the first time, journalists have been clobbered by police as they execute their duty.
In March 2012, photographer Edward Echwalu and Anatoli Luswata, a reporter for the private weekly Eddobozi, were beaten up outside Kampala’s Central Police Station. Both journalists were trying to cover the arrest of former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader Dr Kizza Besigye.
In April 2, 2012 – A Ugandan reporter Ivan Kabaale was knocked off a motorcycle by a police tow truck while covering the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, he was hospitalized and sustained internal bleeding. He was the sixth journalist attacked by security forces in the last 10 days of the 2012 protest.
On January 12, 2015, District police commander Joram Mwesigye beat journalist Andrew Lwanga of WBS TV as he and other journalists were covering a clash between police and the Unemployed Youth activists on Namirembe Road in Kampala
On February 22, 2016, photographer Isaac Kasamani was pepper sprayed in the face outside opposition leader Kizza Besigye home.
On March 1, 2016, Bahati Remmy, a journalist at NBS Television was brutally arrested at Kasangati
A 2015 report by the foundation for human rights condemned the polices actions as journalists continued to face intimidation, harassment and arbitrary arrests while doing their job.