Lawyer sues government over its security agents assaulting journalists

Military Police assaulted journalists who had gone to cover Robert Kyagulanyi's petition to the UNCHR over violations of Human Rights last week. (Courtesy photo).

Government has been dragged to court over security agencies’ continued battering of journalists with the latest being the Military Police.

In his suit filed before the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala, lawyer Steven Kalali, says that it has become a common norm for security agents to assault journalists without being checked.

Last week, journalists were beaten up and many injured by security agents when they had gone to cover National Unity Platform (NUP) leader, Robert Kyagulanyi, as he petitioned the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Kololo

“Innocent and unarmed journalists, while covering the story of the petition by Hon Kyagulanyi Ssentamu on February 17, 2021, at Kololo, were indiscriminately battered by armed military personnel. Upon the military police descending onto battering of journalists, many sustained injuries and are undergoing treatment at various medical centres,” Mr Kalali says.

In the suit, the advocate cites John Cliff Wamala of NTV, Timothy Murungi and Henry Ssewankambo of New Vision and Joseph Sabiiti of NBS as the latest victims of security agents’ assaults.

Mr Kalali argues that every trained journalist ought to have freedom to practice his trade and inform the public of what is happening in the country.

“There have been several violations of press freedom that have gone unchecked by courts of law. As a human rights activist who believes in the rule of law and in the sanctity of the Constitution, courts as guarantors of justice must enjoy public confidence by checking the impugned acts of the respondents (government) agencies towards journalists.”

Declarations

Mr Kalali says he brought the suit in his capacity as a human rights advocate adding that unless checked by court, security agencies’ wanton actions of assaulting journalists will continue.

“Court should issue a declaration that all adult and eligible accredited journalists or media houses in Uganda have a right to practice journalism without unjustified interference from government or its agencies.”

Adding: “There should be a declaration that the continued acts of the respondent agencies including police and military personnel’s battering or attacking of unarmed journalists infringes on their right to practice their profession guaranteed under article 40 (2) of the Constitution of Uganda.”

The Attorney General has been listed in the suit as a respondent.

Mr Kalali wants court to issue an order stopping security agencies from acting with impunity and malice to interfere with the rights of media practitioners and journalists in the peaceful pursuit of their work.

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