The International Press Institute (IPI) today strongly condemned police violence against journalists covering the protests in Uganda last week following the arrest of opposition leader Bobi Wine.

Bobi Wine, otherwise known as Robert Kyagulanyi, campaigned in east Uganda in the lead up to January presidential elections against incumbent Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office for 30 years. Kyagulanyi was arrested in Luuka district shortly after a rally, triggering protests in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

Radio One reporter Ashraf Kasirye was attacked with pepper spray, beaten and arrested while covering the arrest. He was later admitted to hospital in critical condition.

Another journalist Sam Balikowa, who works for City FM and Nile TV, was also arrested while covering the arrest.

Furthermore, news editor Bosco Mwesigwa was reportedly  fired from City FM for covering the protests, while radio station Busoga One was taken off the air after broadcasting Kyagulanyi’s arrest.

“The high-handed action of police against journalists doing their job is completely unacceptable and should be stopped immediately”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Security forces in Uganda should be ordered not to attack journalists and the government should stop silencing independent media outlets, as it is a gross violation of press freedom and democratic norms.”

Earlier this month, Bukkede TV journalist Tony Lule was arrested for alleged online harassment of the first family on November 12. His producers reported that Lule is held at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka, and that access to him is blocked. Freelance journalist Moses Bwayo sustained serious injuries from rubber bullets while covering a story relating to the National Unity Platform on November 5.

IPI has previously raised concerns over threats to Ugandan journalists in light of the upcoming elections, as media outlets faced censorship and intimidation. As press freedom violations in the country take a violent turn, IPI urges authorities to stop this brutality immediately and allow journalists to do their jobs.