Journalists and human rights campaigners want government authorities to protect the media in Uganda against the rising cases of intimidation and harassment.
The call was made on Wednesday as the country commemorated the World Press Freedom Day, treatment few days after a global index reported a decline in Uganda’s performance regarding the rights of journalists.
Out of 180 countries ranked globally, sale Uganda has fallen 10 places since last year to 112 in 2017.
The latest report by Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda (HRNJ-U) indicates that a total of 135 cases of violations against journalists were reported in 2016 with Uganda police as the biggest abuser of press freedoms.
Article 29 (a) of the 1995 constitution of Uganda states that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media”.
U.S Ambassador to Uganda, viagra sale Deborah Malac while speaking at a discussion on the state of the media in Uganda on Wednesday said that the arrest of Makerere academic, Dr. Stella Nyanzi “shows that freedoms have limits in Uganda especially for those who are critical of the government.”
“A free press exposes corruption and encourages good governance, both of which are hallmarks of a vibrant democracy and inclusive development. A free press is a champion of Uganda, not its enemy” Ambassador Malac added.
Continued break-ins on media houses, kidnapping of journalists and gagging of the media from reporting on the case of slain Police spokesperson Felix Kaweesi don’t only pose threats to human rights and Uganda’s development, but also put lives at risk, she said.
Similarly, the Danish Ambassador, Mogens Pedersen who represented the European Union (EU) expressed concern over the increasing clampdown on the media particularly after 2016 elections.
“Last year alone, the internet was shut down twice. As E.U states, we are concerned over attacks on journalists and opinion makers. We strongly urge the relevant authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute the perpetrators,” Ambassador Pedersen said at the event held at Golf Course Hotel.
He made reference to the detention of KTN journalist Joy Doreen Biira who reported about the Kasese clashes in 2016 as well as the recent arrest and kidnapping of Dr. Stella Nyanzi and NTV journalist Getrude Tumusiime Uwitware for expressing themselves on social media.
Regrettably, as journalists in Uganda marked Press Freedom Day, some 7 journalists were arrested in Kampala and manhandled as they protested against ‘corrupt’ leadership within their association.
Many Ugandans on social media criticized the action which they described as a clear manifestation of a lack of state commitment to protect rights of the press.
“The police has made it extremely difficult for us to do our job by harassing us. It is a tragedy that government still equates our work to; abetting terrorism and inciting violence as has been in some cases,” Dr. William Tayebwa, a veteran journalist who heads the Department of Journalism at Makerere University commented during Wednesday’s discussion.
In Uganda’s case where the rule of law is absent, Dr. Tayebwa says the donor community and other international agencies need to enforce strict sanctions such as travel bans on states that violate these freedoms.
However, both Ambassador Malac and Dr. Tayebwa cautioned journalists to equally desist from non factual and biased reporting which they said have dominated the news in Uganda.