By Denis Turyahebwa.
Journalists under their umbrella organization Human Rights network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ) have called off their impending strike they were planning following the 48hr ultimatum they issued last week against UPDF and other security agencies over the brutal torture of their fellow journalists during last week’s riots in Kampala that left a number of them brutally clobbered.
According to HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director Mr Robert Ssempala, UPDF reached out to HRNJ-U on 24th August 2018 and discussed the pertinent issues raised in the letter concerning the journalists’ ultimatum that reached the force’s desk on 23rd August 2018.
Mr Ssempala said that a meeting was scheduled on 27th and that during the three hour session between the UPDF and the journalists at Mbuya Army Headquarters, the army spokesperson stressed the army’s commitment on taking firm action against the errant soldiers and informed the team that the culprits who did the heinous act had already been apprehended.
He added that to emphasise UPDF’s commitment at ensuring that justice is dispensed, Brigadier Richard Karemire pointed to the fact that the Chief of Defence Forces(CDF), Gen David Muhoozi would personally issue continuous updates on the matter to the media fraternity and the general public.
‘’We had wanted the trial to be public but because you know the army can not accept to display its issues,” he said.
Ssempala said they accepted to continue following the matter and the army leadership promised to get some representatives from HRNJ to attend trials as a way of allowing them to follow the matter to the latter.
The army also accepted to cater for medical bills of the victimized journalists and also meet them to agree on how to compensate their gadgets like cameras and other property destroyed in the process.
‘’Owing to the assurance and commitments by the UPDF, HRNJ-U thought it prudent to give the Army a benefit of doubt and time to allow it conduct its internal processes in a bid to bring the perpetrators before the law. We therefore inform the media fraternity and the general public that following these developments, we have suspended our intended campaign to boycott the coverage of UPDF activities together with its sister security agencies and the nationwide peaceful protests among other planned activities. This does not mean we have called off the whole matter but we have given them an opportunity to put their words into action, upon failure we shall just jump into action,’’ Ssempala said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ssempala said HRNJ-U has received complaints from some journalists who covered the Arua by-election alleging threats to their lives , accusing them of promoting the opposition and tasked the police to ensure the safety of journalists covering politically related activities and also explained whether the caller who reached out to journalist in the names of Stephen Bakaleke works with security.
Mr Ssempala also trashed the claimed list of journalists that is trending on social media titled ‘’Opposition opts to use media to overthrow the Government’’ saying it is intended to blackmail the media and project it as Partisan and unprofessional.
He said the list has potential to endanger the lives of these journalists and argued the media houses not to persecute them as this is intended to threaten them from executing their legitimate duty.
Last week a number of journalists including James Akena, a Reuters Correspondent were seriously beaten by UPDF soldiers as they covered #Free Bobi Wine demonstrations in Kampala.