Four journalists have this (Thursday) afternoon survived shooting after being confronted by the military while covering news around the areas of Bugoma forest that is being cleared.
Mr Gad Asaba, a freelance journalist with Kazi-njema News has not managed to escape arrest by the soldiers believed to be Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
Others are Mr Ambrose Nuwagaba Katoto of TV West, Mr Godfrey Muhumuza of BBS TV and Mr Andrew Kaahwa of Spice FM.
The incident occurred at Rwembaaho Village in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District some minutes of mid-day.
Mr Muhumuza narrated to this website that the journalists had started shooting videos of banana plantations destroyed by huge trees being cut down by unknown persons around the disputed area of Bugoma central forest reserve when he became nervous after hearing mixed voices in English and Kiswahili commanding for the shoot-out against the journalists.
He had heard sounds of power saws and multitudes of people inside the forest to where the journalists were heading.
Mr Muhumuza said the journalists rushed to save their life but Mr Asaba a freelance journalist with Kazi-njema News was arrested.
His mobile telephone went off some minutes after the incident.
The journalists had responded to allegations of over 300 strange men who have been zooming into Bugoma forest at different points of Nyairongo village with bush clearing tools including power saws, axes, hoes and machetes.
The Nyairongo Village Chairperson, Mr Desire Mulenzi Nkurunziza, has expressed fear for the strange men who he said started zooming into the forest since Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
By press time, Mr Asaba’s whereabouts were yet to be known while local security could neither immediately confirm nor dismiss the incident.
Previous journalists’ arrests
On September 14, 2020, two journalists; Mr Venex Watebawa and Mr Joshua Mutale of Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET) were detained for two days at Hoima Central Police Station on allegation of masterminding a plan to conduct unlawful protests against the giveaway of Bugoma central forest reserve for sugarcane growing.
These were later released on police bond to which they remain subject.
Another four journalists were also detained for some hours on allegations of photographing their colleagues who were in the police cells.
In courts of law
The issue of Bugoma forest giveaway is increasingly becoming salient catalyzed by allegations of massive bush clearing going on silently inside the forest under the guardianship of the military as legal action gets new gears to the regional courts.
Alongside the ongoing case filed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) against Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for selling part of the forest reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited, environmental activists have dragged the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to the East African Court of Justice over clearing an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report.
The dispute is over a 22-square-kilometre forested land believed to be part of Bugoma central forest reserve.