Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today condemned the brutal and savage attack on Leadership newspaper photojournalist, Mr. Benedict Uwalaka, on Thursday, August 9, 2012 by officials of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) believed to be mortuary attendants.
MRA described the action of the mortuary attendants as criminal and inexcusable under any circumstance. It called on the hospital management and Lagos State Government to take decisive action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Mr. Uwalaka was at the hospital to cover the release of corpses of victims of the recent Dana Air crash by the management of the hospital when his attackers reportedly pounced on him and beat him mercilessly, inflicting severe injuries on him in the process.
The photojournalist is currently on admission at the intensive unit of the hospital where he was taken by his colleagues as he bled profusely following the beating.
Mr. Uwalaka narrated his experience as follows: “I came to LASUTH in the morning to cover the release of the corpses of victims of the DANA Air crash. Some vehicles were deliberately used to block the entrance to the mortuary to prevent access. From a distance, I took the pictures of the vehicles. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me, saying ‘show me your camera, show me your camera. What pictures are you taking?’ Suddenly, somebody came from behind and snatched the camera from me.”
He said the attackers began beating him mercilessly, hitting him with their fists, sticks, bottles and other dangerous weapons, resulting in serious bodily injuries, especially on his face. Another journalist, Mr. Kola Olasupo, who was present at the scene, corroborated Mr. Uwalaka’s account. Pictures show Mr. Uwalaka bleeding from his face and eyes after the attack.
Mr Uwalaka also lost some of his personal belongings to his attackers who took his phone and his PENTAX 30mm zoom lens camera.
MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said “such a savage attack on a media professional going about his legitimate duties or indeed on any other citizen for that matter should not be tolerated in a civilized society. The authorities must take strong measures to show their disdain for such action as a matter of public policy and ensure that the full weight of the Law is brought to bear on the perpetrators.”
MRA also called on both the hospital management and the Lagos State Government to sensitize their staff and officials on the rights of the media to carry out their legitimate professional duties without harassment or intimidation.