Journalists under their umbrella body, Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) have petitioned the Judicial Service Commission over the conduct of a commercial court registrar who assaulted their colleague.
Fred Waninda, the Commercial Court Acting Registrar in charge of Planning, Performance and Development last week slapped Hannington Kisakye, a reporter working with Smart 24 Television and broke his camera’s lens.
In the petition, the journalists body says Waninda’s action amounts to torture, oppression and obstruction while carrying out their duties which illegal and unlawful.
“Without a free media, even the cherished role and independence of the judiciary is threatened. Needless to mention, neither democracy, peace nor development can flourish where journalists fear to cover even or do their work because some people like the deputy registrar Fred Waninda might beat them up,” the journalists say in their petition.
They say it is appalling for the uncivilised and barbaric manner displayed by the court official who is expected to be a custodian of the rule of law.
According to Eric Yiga, a reporter with Salt Media who witnessed the incident, Waninda was incensed by journalists who came to court to cover a case in which he is accused of forging an agreement with an aim of grabbing land belonging to Charles Mulindwa, a resident of Buguju in Mukono district while he still served as the family lawyer.
“When court proceedings ended, we run out of court to record the complainants getting out but in the process, Waninda’s lawyer, asked if we were journalists but as we showed him our identity cards, Waninda slapped Hannington Kisakye from Smart 24 Television and his camera fell down .The lens broke,”Yiga told the Nile Post.
A video recording by Kisakye’s camera before it was broken shows Waninda biting his teeth as he swung a slap that hit the journalist.
In the petition, Uganda Journalists Association demands for Waninda’s interdiction on top of taking further disciplinary proceedings against him.
“We demand the Judicial Service Commission issue directions to the judiciary aimed at protection journalists from unruly judicial officers like Waninda and also keep us informed of all and any steps and proceedings regarding the complaint.”
Ochola too petitioned
The group has also petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola demanding for action to be taken against one his officers who refused to record a statement from the victims of the assault by Waninda.
Yiga said last week that when they went to the Central Police Station in Kampala in whose jurisdiction the Commercial Court falls but they got no help as police officers declined to record the statement.
In the petition, the journalists’ body wants the police chief to instruct the Kampala Metropolitan Police Criminal Investigations Division commander, Johnson Dale Olal disciplined for refusing to take statements from the victims of the assault.
“We want our journalists helped to formally record their statements with police and ensure swift and thorough investigation and prosecution of the complainant.”
“The said Johnson Dale Olal should be disciplined over his conduct.”