Kampala, 24th/April/2013; the National Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala has won the European Union Human Rights Defender’s Award for the year 2012. Ssebaggala is one of the founding members of HRNJ-Uganda and has been its National Coordinator since 2009.
He was nominated for the Award because of his consistency in defending media rights, recording and highlighting limitations of freedom of expression, information and association in Uganda, majorly attacks on journalists. He has provided a steadfast leadership to HRNJ-Uganda to stand firm against the victimization of journalists in a challenging operating environment, and has accordingly worked to expose and publicize their plight at different foras. HRNJ-Uganda boasts of over 200 members and press clubs across the country.
“This is a very big achievement for me and my colleagues in the organization with whom we have worked tirelessly to improve the working environment for the media and the general human rights situation in Uganda. It clearly shows that our efforts are well focused, and I feel re-energized to stand for this cause” said Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
The Award was handed over to him by the French Ambassador to Uganda; Her Excellence Aline Kuster Menager, on April 23, 2013 at a reception held at the Dutch Ambassador’s residence in Uganda’s Capital Kampala. The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Uganda Ambassador Dr Roberto Ridolfi was represented by the Head of Political, Trade and Regional Integration of the Head of European Union, Mr. Thomas Millar.
As a founding member of HRNJ-Uganda, Ssebaggala has continuously worked with his colleagues in the organization to improve rights of journalists and protect the freedom of expression. The organization has therefore helped journalists in detention, represented journalists in Courts of Law and produced Press Freedom Index reports to highlight the difficulty of journalists and propose ways of improving the state of the media in light of the human rights situation in the country.
Ssebaggala was nominated along with over 10 prominent Human Rights activists notably; Bishop Zack Niringyiye, Lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi and the Executive Director of the Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda Ms Cissy Kagaba among others. He joins the winner of the inaugural award Gerald Kankya of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) who won the award in 2012 for his human rights work in 2011, in a race that saw Ssebaggala come second.
The European Union (EU) missions and delegation in Uganda established the Annual Award to raise awareness on the work of human rights defenders (HRDs). The award recognizes and honors the achievements of an individual human rights defender in Uganda, who has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights during the year. Nominations are received from Human Rights organizations and individuals active in Uganda, and the winner is selected by the EU heads of mission.