The Inspector-General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola (pictured) has backtracked on his statement in which he appeared to endorse police brutality against journalists. Today, he told a parliamentary committee that “it was a joke.”
Ochola, early this year told a joint security press briefing that the police would continue beating journalists for their own safety. At the time, several journalists had sustained injuries from the campaign trail where they were hit with batons, rubber bullets and teargas canisters, in what appeared to be a direct attack against media practitioners.
“On the contrary, it is the media targeting security. It is portraying security as brutal and siding with the government. When we tell a journalist, don’t go there and you insist on going where there is danger, we shall beat you for your own safety. I have no apology,” Ochola said.
However, journalists have said that Ochola’s statement was a green flag to the men in uniform to mercilessly descend on journalists, many of whom are now nursing injuries. The latest attack was against a team of journalists who were covering former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi as he delivered a petition to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kampala.
When he appeared before the Parliaments Defence Committee this afternoon Ochola was tasked to justify the statement he made to this effect. Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South MP said that the statement sent police personnel on a rampage and opened another wave of brutality against another unarmed and nonconfrontational group in the line of duty.
However, Ochola told the committee that the matter was blown out of proportion. He also boasted that he has an outstanding record on upholding human rights and the rule of law, adding that the infamous attack at the offices of the UN Human rights offices was never orchestrated by the police.
Meanwhile Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP tasked the Minister of Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania to explain the continued arrest of supporters of the National Unity Platform, many of whim, he said, were held in unknown places.
The Minister of Internal Affairs Obiga Kania asked members to present the names so that security can confirm.