NUP 'endorsing violence' against journalists

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NUP 'endorsing violence' against journalists
Kyagulanyi's bodyguards threaten Ms Zainab Ssengendo during the Lwengo event.

The Greater Masaka Journalists Association (GREMAJA) has condemned a statement by the National Unity Platform (NUP), terming it as "derogatory and disrespectful" towards journalists.

On Thursday, NUP denied allegations that its security team had attacked journalists during a burial ceremony in Lwengo District on May 18.

The party issued a statement following a decision of journalists in the Greater Masaka region to boycott all NUP-related events indefinitely.

The boycott came as a result of an incident where journalists were allegedly assaulted by bodyguards of NUP president Robert Kyagulanyi during the burial ceremony in Lwengo.

The journalists who were allegedly assaulted include Zainab Namusaazi Ssengendo from Next Media, Gertrude Mutyaba from NTV, and Margaret Kayondo from Radio Simba.

The incident resulted in damaged equipment and injuries to the press members.

In a strongly-worded response, Farish Magembe, President of GREMAJA, expressed deep concern over the NUP's statement, viewing it as a deliberate attempt to undermine the integrity and value of journalists in the area.

Magembe condemned the implicit endorsement of violence against the press, as evidenced by the party's apparent praise for those who assaulted journalists and damaged their equipment.

"We fail to comprehend how the party intends to collaborate with journalists in this region, particularly in light of such derogatory statements," said Magembe.

He emphasised the crucial role journalists play in society, highlighting their responsibility to inform the public and uphold democratic values.

He questioned the NUP's commitment to cooperation with journalists, especially considering the disparaging remarks made against them.

Magembe expressed concerns about the NUP's stance on press freedom and journalists' rights, stressing that mistreatment of journalists constitutes a violation of their human rights.

He called for greater respect and acknowledgement of journalists' contributions to society.

"This blatant attempt to diminish the role of journalists in our region is unacceptable and poses a significant challenge to our work," Magembe stated.

As GREMAJA continues to advocate for the rights and dignity of journalists, Magembe urged the NUP and other political entities to reconsider their approach and demonstrate genuine commitment to supporting press freedom and media professionalism.

Robert Ssempala, executive director of Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) Uganda, welcomed the NUP's response but stated that it falls short of providing justice to the media fraternity.

He emphasised the need to thoroughly investigate the incident, as journalists on duty should always be protected by security and political actors.

Ronald Kabuye, spokesperson for the Uganda Journalist Association (UJA), announced that an investigation is underway, and a statement regarding the matter will be released soon.

In their statement, the NUP claimed that there are conflicting versions of the events and that the accused individuals have denied any attack taking place.

"We have reached out to the affected individuals, who claim to possess video evidence, but they have not provided it yet," NUP said in an unsigned statement posted on their official social media accounts.

The party alleges that some of the journalists making these accusations are actually political actors working against the party, asserting that the allegations are politically motivated. Despite the Greater Masaka journalists giving the NUP officials a two-day ultimatum to apologize, the demand was ignored.

During a press briefing in Masaka city on Wednesday morning, the journalists announced their decision to indefinitely cease coverage of NUP events.

"We have set an open-ended deadline until they come forward and apologize for the assault and damage caused to our colleagues' equipment," stated Ezekiel Ssekweyama, a member of the Greater Masaka Journalists Association.

The journalists expressed their disappointment in NUP leaders, particularly opposition leader Joel Ssenyonyi.

"Ssenyonyi, you were once one of us and should be defending us all. Attacking us indicates that you easily forget your roots, even after our team was assaulted by your supposed security personnel," Ssekweyama added.

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