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In Uganda, murdered Adventist radio reporter was running for public office

Church appealing to government for safety of journalists

In Uganda, murdered Adventist radio reporter was running for public office

Dickson Ssentongo was killed by unknown assailants while walking to work at an Adventist-owned radio station in Kierka, in Southern Uganda. Church leaders are urging government officials to find and prosecute his killers and protect journalists in the Central African nation. [photo courtesy ECD]

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A senior radio news anchor at a Seventh-day Adventist-owned station in Kireka was beaten to death last week, possibly in connection with his recently announced candidacy for a local council election.

Dickson Ssentongo, 29, of Prime Radio was attacked on his way to work Monday September 13 and died hours later, succumbing to injuries while in a coma at Mulago National Referral Hospital.

The unknown assailants are said to have used iron bars commonly known as "katayimbwa" in the local Luganda language. Ssentongo was walking alone to a taxi stand at Nantabulirwa village in the district of Mukono, along Kampala Jinja Highway.

Ssentongo was a Luganda news anchor at Prime Radio, located in Kireka, and had worked for the church-owned station for two years. He had recently announced his candidacy in upcoming local council elections, running on the opposition Democratic Party ticket.

It is not yet clear whether his death was politically inspired. The Democratic Party spokesperson, Kenneth Kakande, said he believes that the murder could have been politically motivated.

District Police Commander Alphonse Musoni said they were still investigating the incident. Musoni said that the assailants could have trailed him and knew his movements.

Leaders of the Adventist Church's Central Uganda Conference, which owns Prime Radio, were shocked and saddened to learn of Ssentongo's murder.

Samuel Mwebaza, Communication director for the church's Uganda Union, said the church has condemned the murder and is appealing to government officials to do all they can to identify the culprits and ensure the safety of journalists in the country.

"Surely, we are going to miss him, as staff and the church, for which he had worked for, fostering its mission of informing the public about the good news of Jesus Christ," said Babi Kimera Godfrey, the station programs director.

"The church has not had enough manpower in the media industry and surely we depend on people who can sometimes sacrifice their time and work for the progress of the radio. Sentongo was one of them," Babi added.

Such acts are on the increase, Babi said.

On September 11, a correspondent for Top Radio was lynched by a mob of motorcycle taxi drivers -- known as "boda-bodas" -- in the southern town of Rakai as he recorded the demolition of the home of a resident the drivers accused of killing one of their colleagues.