By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
An enforcement officer who was filmed pepper-spraying journalists as they covered the arrest of pre-medical interns who attempted to march to Parliament over delayed commencement of medical internship has been suspended from the Force, police said Wednesday.
Cpl Ogwal Yeeko was on Tuesday filmed pepper spraying journalists, Isano Francis and Thomas Kitimbo, after police were deployed to disperse a group of pre-medical interns who had planned to march to Parliament over the delayed commencement of medical internship for the year 2023/2024. They also wanted MPs to look into issues of medical interns’ welfare.
“The abuse directed at journalists and reporters for simply doing their job, can never be justified. The officer who acted unprofessionally has been identified as CPL Ogwal Yeeko. Although the officer apologized to the journalists, he has still been suspended and handed over to the Professional Standards Unit, for investigations,” said police spokesperson SCP Fred Enanga.
Mr Enanga asked the said journalists to record their statements about the 9:30 am incident at Mulago Guest House Wandegeya, with PSU to allow charges to be brought against Cpl Ogwal.
“We have also reached out to the journalists and expressed deep regrets over the conduct of our officers,” Mr Enanga added in a statement.
He said ASP Kamulya Sowali, the OC Field Force Unit Kira division, AIP Ogwang John Steven, the OC operations Wandegeya and PC Laker Harriet have also been summoned by the Professional Standards Unit and are undergoing investigations for their failings during their enforcement operations.
Although the police spokesperson argues that the Force has “a long and proud history with the media, especially crime reporters whose journalistic work has helped shape our institution and society”, there have been several reported cases of enforcement officers assaulting journalists in the line of duty.
Such cases were common during the 2021 presidential campaigns where several journalists deployed to cover opposition candidates were targeted by enforcement officers in the line of duty.
“..for the last two years, we have [had] an incident–free working relationship. However, our officers’ actions indicate that there is still work that we must do to protect journalists and reporters better, so that they can play their part in keeping the public informed without fear or favour.
We are going to ensure that they go about their work without being intimidated, attacked or threatened,” SCP Enanga said adding that they have also sent out a new administrative circular to all territorial commanders to regularly review their enforcement operations, in line with what the public rightly expects from them.
The 2021 report by Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ-U) ranked Uganda number one press freedom violator in Uganda and recorded 131 cases of press freedom violation.
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