Thursday, 31 May 2012

Uganda pastor sorry for beating journalists

A born-again pastor in Mukono district (23km from Kampala) has apologized to four Ugandan journalists whom members of his church battered two weeks ago. Pastor Samuel Lwandasa of the Mt. Lebanon Church in Mukono town said sorry to the journalists arguing that his congregation had no “ill-intentions” against journalists.

The apology comes after police had quizzed Lwandasa over the incident; and after one of his church members Shem Ssemanda had admitted to attacking the journalists and apologized to them. The journalists that were assaulted included Paddy Nsobya of the government owned vernacular Bukedde Newspaper (Vision Group of Companies), Makumbi Joseph of Red Pepper, Kalumba Ronald of WBS television, and Bbuule Moses Kizito of Bukedde radio.

“Forgive me for the attack which I was part of, am sorry, I apologize and promise never to do it again.” Ssemanda told the mediation meeting attended by the police. 
Mt. Lebanon church has existed for the last two decades.

The journalists were attacked while investigating allegations that Pastor Lwandasa had arbitrarily dismissed critical members from the church after they opposed his taking over of the church's property.  
According to Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), which was involved in the amicable resolution of the impasse, Lwandasa has agreed to replace the journalists’ property like cameras destroyed during the incident.

“I don’t know who participated or who never participated in the beating of the journalists, but all I know is that they were victims to an attack on the said day by some persons from my church. But I want to apologize on behalf of the church and hereby commit that my church would compensate the journalists for costs and replace their damaged cameras within a period not exceeding one month. I hereby plead for forgiveness on behalf of Shem (Ssemanda) and any other member of my church. We take the blame and we are very sorry about what happened,” said Pastor Lwandasa.

The journalists offered to forgive their attackers if they fulfilled the set conditions in the given period. Police in Mukono had preferred assault and malicious damage to property charges on the suspects. 

HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala said his organization is concerned about attacks on journalists and would like to ensure that justice is delivered to the victims in an expeditious way. “It is also imperative to promote peace and reconciliation between the media and the community where they operate. However, the case file should be processed for purposes of criminal prosecution if the suspects backtrack on the agreed upon terms. The attacks are an abuse of the media freedoms and rights which should not be condoned,” Ssebagala said.

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

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