Kampala, 08th/Feb/2012; A Press Freedom Index Report released by the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-UGANDA) has indicated that the space of the media in
Uganda is rapidly shrinking and sinking due to increasing levels of attacks by
especially the police
The report released in Kampala documented 107 cases of attacks on journalists in 2011
compared to 58 in 2010 and 38 in 2009 respectively. The attacks range from shootings, physical attacks, unlawful arrest and detention, incarceration of journalists, denying access to news scenes, confiscation of equipment, defective and tramped up charges, to verbal threats. The abuses happened countrywide under different commands from within the security.
The period under review witnessed a journalist and a book author/writer being held incommunicado, three journalists who were shot while covering news events including Hasfa Nakyanzi a reporter with Top TV, Christine Nabatanzi a reporter with Radio Simba and Capital FM/ Beat FM reporter Gideon Tugume.
“Press freedom and freedom of expression in Uganda remain elusive to many journalists seeking to enjoy these freedoms in their course of work and citizens who want to express themselves. Frequently, journalists are being attacked, injured, and threatened and their property vandalized by the institutions that are mandated to guarantee enjoyment of these freedoms and protecting them and these institutions are headed by trained lawyers. These constant attacks on journalists and citizens do not only contravene the Constitution of Uganda but the regional and international conventions that Uganda has ratified” Noted Programmes Coordinator HRNJ-UGANDA Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala
This is the 3rd time HRNJ-UGANDA is releasing an annual assessment of press freedom in Uganda based on the investigations, analysis and documentation of complaints received from different parts of the country.
The report accuses the police and other security agencies of confiscating still and video cameras from journalist. Between April and May ten cameras were confiscated by security operatives as journalist covered the walk to work campaign. This trend indicates a systematic and calculated move by Police and other agencies to obstruct journalists from executing their duties.
HRNJ-UGANDA notes a high degree of impunity by the law enforcement agencies and other
institutions to pursue the perpetrators in spite of concerted efforts to engage
In the course of 2011, newspapers were raided and broken into, but there were no
serious investigations by the Police to establish who the culprits are. Police stormed media houses searching for alleged subversive materials. As a result, landlords, suppliers and printers of newspapers considered anti-government felt intimidated and threatened to abandon the targeted media houses. This conduct has led to temporary closure and ceasing of publication of newspapers.
By the end of 2011, about 30 journalists had pending charges against them. Only Daniel Kalinaki and Henry Ochieng, both editors at the Monitor Publications only recently had their cases disposed of while the majority continues to have pending cases against them. The principle of natural justice demands that justice must be speedy and be seen to be done. This has continued to elude journalists in Uganda.
The media legal policies still pose a danger to the enjoyment of the freedom of expression and the press. Efforts from government to bring into conformity the existing media legislation with the Constitution of Uganda and International standards are non-existent. Unfortunately, proposals are being made to introduce measures that undermine the enjoyment of press freedom.
Sadly, there is glaring silence from the statutory bodies that should be on the forefront of protecting and defending media freedoms. It is a matter of concern that the Uganda Human Rights Commission has not taken initiative to independently investigate and expose these abuses.
This statutory body has had over 25 cases brought to its attention by journalists, but none of them has been fully investigated and brought to a logical conclusion. Some cases date back as far as 2007.
HRNJ-UGANDA is convinced that the current situation requires a concerted effort from the stakeholders especially the international community to play a pivotal role in reminding the government of Uganda its obligation to respect and promote press freedom and freedom of expression as a way of rescuing it from sinking further.
We once again call upon the government of Uganda to admit the United Nations Special Rapporteur of freedom of expression and information who has written twice seeking to visit Uganda.