After their friendly football matches with the media fraternity, Uganda Peoples Forces has promised a new era of working relationship between the two sides. The two matches; one involving senior army officers and media managers/owners and another between junior officers and journalists were held at Philip Omondi Stadium in Kampala on Friday evening under the initiative of UPDF.
The Chief of Defense Forces (CDF), General David Muhoozi led the UPDF team while Kin Karisa, the Chairperson of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) captained the media managers. UPDF Spokesperson Flavia Byekwaso described the initiative as the beginning of a new era.
She said more and more activities will be held in, which the two sides will be discussing issues that divide them.
Asked why cynical journalists should take the initiative seriously, Byekwaso said that bringing senior army officers to participate in the activities is a demonstration of their highest level of commitment.
The initiative is an attempt to mend ties between media and security forces following the controversial behavior of the military towards journalists as soldiers made headlines for assaulting journalists covering campaigns and post campaign events.
The worst incident occurred in February when Military Police officers battered journalists who had gone to cover the former National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine as he was delivering his petition on gross human rights violations to the office of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in Kololo.
Military police officers descended on journalists who were waiting for Bobi Wine outside the commission office in Kololo and battered them indiscriminately. Some of the victims of the military brutality are New Vision’s Henry Ssekanjakko and Timothy Murungi, NTV’s Cliff Wamala, Daily Monitor’s Irene Abalo Otto, Shamim Nabakooza of Record TV, and Galaxy FM’s Nalule Amina. Other victims are NBS TV’s Josephine Namakumbi, Joseph Sabiti and Thomas Kitimbo.
Since journalists and the army are in “each other’s face every day,” CDF Muhoozi , said there is a need for a friendlier relationship between the two groups.
The Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-U), Executive Director Robert Sempala said the initiative is welcome. Dialogue is the way to go, he said. If the bromance fails to work, he said they will part ways.
But a number of journalists remain pessimistic if this initiative will lead to an end of the human rights abuses by soldiers. Ahead of the match, Uganda Journalist Association President, Mathias Rukundo released a statement, saying that the event was an attempt by the UPDF to dupe the media that human rights abuses will end.
“Security agencies have been ranked top violators of rights by many press index reports urging that for the forces to invite journalists allegedly for football and dinner, instead of resolving serious issues is a hoodwink and an attempt to divert us from discussion of grave human rights violations against journalists,” the statement said.
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