The police force is set to start vetting journalists who cover its functions, the Nile Post has learnt.
Two months ago, police beat up journalists who had gone to cover the judgment of ASP Muhammad Kirumira at the police disciplinary in Naguru.
Counter terrorism police officers were seen kicking, beating and pushing journalists who demanded to know the reason behind the cruel act.
Last week, the police leadership led by the Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola met with managers and editors of various media houses to iron out the differences between the two entities.
However, in a communique by Ochola dated May 16 and addressed to all police units, a number of measures have been spelt out in a bid to streamline the relationship between the force and journalists.
“At police headquarters, we shall request media houses to appoint a number of journalists to be vetted and accredited accordingly as it happens with parliament and other institutions,” says in part Ochola’s message.
“This will address the challenge of impostors among others.”
According to Ochola, the force should continue to observe the centrality of roles they play and the need to together with the media to support each other in the service of the public.
“Unit commanders must observe the safety of journalists very critically and no journalist or citizen should ever be bused or tortured,” he says.
In one incident during the standoff at the police headquarters in April, Galaxy FM’s Amina Nalule who was pregnant was pushed to the ground by a male police officer and efforts to save her by fellow journalists were blocked by police officers.
Despite attending the entire proceedings of the hearing against Kirumira by the court, journalists were stunned when without any reason, the police spokesperson Emilian Kayima ordered counter terrorism officers at the entrance not to allow any journalist access the court for its judgment.
However, Ochola says the police must at all times conduct themselves towards members of the media in accordance with the law.
“Torture is a criminal offence according to the law and whoever will be found to be involved in the crime shall be expeditiously investigated and prosecuted,”Ochola says.
However, according to some, the move to have journalists vetted is meant to run away from public scrutiny by working with a few selected journalists.
“This is only intended to ensure favourable and guided reportage from the selected journalists. It cannot be accepted for police to dictate who covers them or not,” Robert Ssempala, the National Coordinator for Human Rights Network for Journalists told the Nile Post.
“Accepting that would be usurping the work of editors who assign reporters based on different dynamics around the story in question.”
He adds that even if the police was to select who covers them, they would at one time fallout with journalists for writing objectively about the shortcomings of the force.
Ssempala calls upon media houses to reject the move.