Six Ugandan soldiers have been sentenced to up to three months in prison for brutalising members of the press, who were covering opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine.
Multiple media reports indicate that seven journalists were seriously injured after they were attacked by military and police officers while covering the opposition figure, who was delivering his petition to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) offices in Kololo, Kampala, on Wednesday.
Wine, 38, moved to the Supreme Court early this month seeking to nullify results of the January 14 presidential election maintaining that President Yoweri Museveni rigged the poll.
The pop star-turned-politician’s petition to the UN detailed alleged abuses such as illegal detentions, torture, forced disappearances and continued harassment of opposition groups.
Videos of the Wednesday incident shared on social media show police with batons chasing after screaming journalists and hitting them indiscriminately.
One video showed a reporter bleeding from the head from a baton wound.
A statement issued by the army disciplinary committee of the court-martial indicated that they “convened and deliberated on its officers and militants who misbehaved and assaulted members of the fourth estate”.
Accordingly, six soldiers were given detentions of between 60-90 days and a seventh was issued with a severe reprimand, the army said.
Defences Forces Chief David Muhoozi called a press conference yesterday to apologise to the media, promising to pay for the medical care of the injured journalists.
The Wednesday assault of journalists (not the first incident) was condemned by the United Nations and the United States Embassy in Uganda.
UN urged the Ugandan government to immediately investigate the attack and “ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
US Ambassador Natalie E. Brown, on her part, called for a transparent probe.
“Whenever assaulted, swift, public, transparent investigations must follow to ensure justice is served and to restore public trust,” the ambassador tweeted.
“Those who violate press freedom must be held to account.”