Outrage over attacks on journalists in Uganda and Tanzania

A disturbing video of a shirtless Silas Mbise being kicked around and taunted by Tanzanian police has led to widespread condemnation of the harassment visited on the radio journalist.

Silas Mbise covers sports for Wapo radio, an independent radio station airing from Mlandizi in Dar Es Salaam.

According to The Citizen of Tanzania, Inspector General of police Simon Sirro said: "Preliminary investigations show that the journalist had refused to conform to police orders before he was being attacked and that is why the police officers had to use extra force."

The Tanzania chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) released a statement detailing some of the legal instruments allowing for the press to work without intimidation in Tanzania.

“Press freedom is one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by article 18 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

“It is also enshrined in universal human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights,” the statement said.

The statement said such acts discourage the working relationship of the media and the police force and also deny the public the right to access to information.

Tanzania's Criminal Procedure Act outlines how police should behave when effecting an arrest. Sections 11 and 12 deal with the use of force during an arrest and place limits to that force.

Notably, it is unnecessary to confine a person if they submit either by telling the police that they are not resisting, or through their actions.

For those who forcefully resist arrest, the law says that the police may use all means necessary to effect the arrest, yet no person shall be subjected to more restraint than necessary .

Media in Tanzania have faced increasing suppression, both through violent incidents such as this one and through increased use of sedition law.

In this way, the ordinary work of journalists could be seen as criminal if it is deemed to “excite hatred” against the authority of the government, or disaffection against the administration of justice.

Uganda journalists assaulted amid instability

Disturbing images of journalists being assaulted by officials also surfaced in Uganda. Journalists covering the protests against the arrest of politician Robert Kyagulanyi faced hostility from authorities.

According to the Ugandan newspaper, Daily Nation, Kyagulanyi is proving to be a tough competitor to both president Museveni and his longtime rival Dr Besigye.

Kyagulanyi, famously known as Bobi Wine from his days as a musician, was subjected to a military arrest on 16 August and charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in a military court in Gulu, Kampala.

A video on Twitter shows army personnel assaulting Reuters journalist James Akena who was covering the #FreeBobiWine protests. Photos of the injured journalist showing his bruises were also shared among Twitter users.

The Uganda People’s Defence Force issued a press release on August 21 apologising for the conduct of the soldiers who “molested” journalists. Defence spokesperson Richard Karemire said the army has ordered for their [the soldiers] arrest and punishment.

"We wish to reiterate our strong commitment to maintain a strong relationship with the media fraternity in the course of executing all our core functions as laid out in the Constitution," Karemire added.

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