By Andrew Irumba
Journalists and Media owners under their umbrella Organization, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have vehemently condemned the brutality unleashed unto members of the fourth estate as they cover the implementation of the curfew that was declared by President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday last week.
During his national address about Coronavirus on Tuesday, President Museveni declared a curfew for 14 days starting April 01st, 2020, aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
However, while implementing the curfew, several people, among them journalists, civil servants, traders and other civilians have been brutalized by security forces notably Police and LDUs who are under the command of control of UPDF.
The cases of brutality worsened on Thursday night after several journalists were clobbered and their gadgets confiscated by security personnel, something that has sparked off national criticism from media practitioners.
As a result, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has Friday issued a statement in which they condemned the brutality, harassment, and attack on Ugandans (including journalists) by security forces while enforcing the Coronavirus lockdown and curfew.
Kin Kariisa, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Next Media Services, who doubles as NAB Chairperson, in his strongly worded protest note dated April 3, 2020, to the Minister of Information and Communications Technology Judith Nabakooba, protested the highhandedness exhibited by the security forces while carrying out their operations.
In his letter, Kariisa stated that whereas NAB supports all government efforts to curb the spread of the Coronavirus and has indeed carried all government approved messages on their various platforms, security forces seem to be working against their efforts which inadvertently curtails their operations.
The letter reads in part thus; “On the evening of the 2nd of April, 2020, a Vision Group journalist was attacked and beaten by security agencies in Mukono while returning home after work, in Ntungamo, a Nation Media Group journalist was beaten during the day while executing his duties, the Next Media team was arrested and harassed on their way back home after the evening news bulletins.
All this started with the Security Minister declaring that no one will be allowed to move during curfew hours, effective at 7:00 pm every day. It is difficult to see how the media can work with such orders because we are expected to broadcast LIVE His Excellency the President’s national address that happens at 8:00 Pm most of the times.”
Kariisa also noted that the directive from the Security Minister has since made media practice very difficult because all the major prime time broadcasts and newspaper printing happens beyond 7:00 pm and start before 6:30 am.
“If this kind of harassment and enforcement continues, the well-intended measures will lose public support, hamper the media’s efforts to convey the Coronavirus sensitization messages and defeat the whole purpose of the lockdown,” Kariisa warned.
He, however, urged journalists not to give up on their duties and asked the security forces to respect the rights and freedoms of journalists to execute their duties even during the curfew hours, since they work in tandem with the National Taskforce on Coronavirus and other government agencies.
The NAB Chairperson also beseeched the security personnel to respect the stickers provided by the Ministry of Works and transport especially if the journalist presents to them their credentials like national identification and press cards.
This is not the first time security agencies clobber members of the fourth estate. During the 2018 by elections in Arua where Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine’s driver Kawuma was short dead, a number of journalists from various media houses were clobbered.