Ugandan soldiers jailed for assaulting journalists

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Six Ugandan soldiers were handed prison sentences of up to three months by a military court on Thursday for taking part in the brutal beating of local journalists covering the country’s opposition leader.

The seven injured journalists were covering an effort by opposition leader, Bobi Wine, to file a petition on Wednesday with the United Nations against human rights abuses, when they were set upon by security forces.

According to reports, one of the journalists remained hospitalized with a deep head wound.

The 38-year-old former popstar Wine has alleged January’s election was rigged, and his petition to the UN detailed alleged abuses such as illegal detentions, torture, forced disappearances, and continued harassment of opposition groups.

The journalists were injured as military police chased his supporters away from the United Nations’ offices in Kampala.

An army statement said a disciplinary committee of the court-martial had “convened and deliberated on its officers and militants who misbehaved and assaulted members of the fourth estate”.

Six soldiers were given detentions of between 60-90 days and a seventh was issued with a severe reprimand, it said.

A first statement identified four soldiers who had been jailed, but a later statement gave the names of two more.

Also on Thursday defence forces chief David Muhoozi called a press conference to apologize to the media, promising to pay for the medical care of the injured journalists.

Journalists in Uganda often face rough treatment at the hands of security forces, which soared during an election marred by the worst bloodshed in years, as well as a sustained crackdown on government critics.

Shortly before the election, when asked why police were assaulting journalists, police chief Martin Ochola said it was for their own good, and refused to apologize.

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