Human Rights Network for journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) petitioned the Human Rights Committee of Parliament on February 26, 2013 over the dismal working environment for the media in Uganda perpetuated by the high levels of impunity. HRNJ-Uganda wants Parliament to be actively involved in the protection, upholding and promotion of the freedom of expression and information in Uganda. HRNJ-Uganda has documented over 300 cases against journalists since 2009 by both State and non-state actors, but the perpetrators continue to walk scot free. Police has been implicated in most of the cases.
Various recommendations were made to the Committee by the journalists’ body. The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Jovah Kamateeka commended HRNJ-Uganda for being articulate on media rights and freedoms. She pledged that her Committee would analyze the recommendations and take appropriate measures. The recommendations included, putting in place measures to facilitate the visit to Uganda of the Special Rapportuer on freedom of expression and opinion as recommended by the UN Human Rights Council during the review of Uganda, take steps to address the culture of impunity of Human Rights violations by law enforcement officers, encourage and advocate for protection of Human Rights defenders including journalists, and inculcate Human Rights education into the forces’ training curriculum.
Others were; to ensure the independence of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and give it powers to effectively protect human rights as well as monitoring the way it handles cases lodged before it, to ensure that the process of developing the National Action plan is more transparent and fast-tracked so as to have the continued human rights violations controlled, and to implore government to strengthen its human rights mechanisms and continuously update its laws, policies and institutions in the area of protection and promotion of human rights, among others.
“About the visit of the Special Rapportuer, we will remind government. Most of your articulations are spot on and we shall present them to the other members of the committee and arrange for another interface between the full committee and HRNJ-Uganda to further our discussions. ” Kamateeka told the 6-man HRNJ-Uganda team.
She, together with the vice chairperson of the committee, Safia Nalule urged the journalists to act more professionally and carry out thorough research in their work in order to promote responsible journalism.
The HRNJ-Uganda head of Legal affairs, Catherine Anite told the Committee that criminal defamation is still a major challenge in our Law books as it criminalizes what people say consequently curtailing their freedom of expression. She further advocated for self regulation of the media through strengthening of the Independent Media Council of Uganda to weed out unprofessionalism, a move welcomed by the committee.