By Sania Babirye
Kampala high court judge Andrew Byabasaija has dismissed a case in which two court journalists accused the Deputy registrar of planning and Development in the judiciary Fred Waninda of assaulting them.
The judge has ruled that the defense failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove the said charges.
Justice Bashaija ruled that torturing journalists is not a human rights violation yet the case filed does not disclose the cause of action just as the plaintiff had submitted.
The judge also was in agreement that the two journalists should instead have instead filed a civil suit with sufficient evidence to prove the said assaults.
Further more the judge has faulted the journalists of failing to adduce in court the alleged video taken when the registrar was allegedly assaulting them.
Justice Bashaija also observed that despite the said journalists reporting the said incident to police , police could not register it because there was no evidence to support.
These have now been ordered to pay Waninda all the costs he has incurred in the suit.
However, the journalist have vowed to appeal saying they are dissatisfied with the ruling.
On the 6th of May this year the two journalists dragged Waninda to the high court in seeking over 150 million shillings in compensation for their alleged human rights violations.
Under their umbrella organization: the Uganda Journalist Association, Hannigton Kisakye working with salt TV and Eric Yaga of smart 24 TV claim that the actions of Waninda including verbal and physical assault and other threats of further harming them by Waninda and breaking their camera, while they were exercising their journalistic duties infringed on their journalistic human rights and freedoms which are protected by the constitution of Uganda.
These asked court to issue an order that Waninda’s alleged misconduct fell short of his obligations to respect ,uphold, protect and promote freedoms as required by the constitution.
Through their lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha advocate, the two journalists alleged that Waninda’s actions amounted to abuse of his powers as an officer of the judiciary since he is bound to observe, protect, respect and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms of all citizens of Uganda.
They also wanted court to order Waninda to award them damages which is equivalent to the camera Nikon D 3100 which was allegedly destroyed by Waninda while they covered a land case at commercial court on the 24th of April this year in which Waninda is accused of grabbing 13 acres of Land in Kawuga village.
They were also seeking 100 million shillings in general damages for the physical and psychological torture, stress and inhumane degrading treatment allegedly subjected to them by the Deputy registrar which they say violated their human rights and 50 million shillings each as aggravated damages for the oppressive and cold hearted treatment on top of costs of the suit.
Evidence before court shows that on that fateful day, Kisakye was covering the said land case court proceedings after the proceedings he was physically tortured, slapped and his camera was allegedly destroyed by Waninda.
And that when Yiga inquired why Waninda was manhandling his colleague, Waninda turned on him and held him by the collar of jis shirt while squeezing his neck.
He says Waninda’s actions were so painful, shocking and offensive for him as a journalist.
These stated that “court needs to breath life into the constitutional imperatives of open justice by holding liable any person including judicial officers like Waninda who unjustifiably impede or attempt to frustrate journalists from covering otherwise public court proceedings and also enhance the administration of justice ”
They further stated that ” in order to promote open justice, press freedoms, rule of laws and respect for human rights, it is just and convenient for this honorable court to allow their application and all remedies sought”
On the 29th of this month, the judiciary launched an investigation into the said assault allegations.
They now await the ruling on the same matter by the judicial service commission.
According to a press release by the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Esta Nambayo, the Inspector of Courts was tasked to investigate and present its findings within seven days for further management.
This follows after the chief registrar received media reports that Waninda, assaulted the said journalists at the Commercial Court while working.
The Inspectorate of Courts is mandated to receive and investigate complaints of maladministration of justice against any staff of the Judiciary and all cadres of judicial officers.
This is not the first time that a public servant has attacked court journalists while on Duty.
In March 2016, drama engulfed at the anti corruption court after Former works minister who was facing corruption charges beat up a female journalist Judith Nalugwa of Bukedde TV and paper.
The journalist was trying to record the minister during one of his court appearances although the journalist recorded a statement at police, the matter was later settled out of court.
And in June 2017, the same Minister boxed a male journalist of NTV Denis Kabugo who was video taping him over the same corruption case at the anti corruption court.
The minister has since then been cleared of all the corruption charges.