The Uganda Police Force has for the fourth consecutive year topped the list of violators of media rights and freedoms as per the Press Freedom Index Report (2016) released by the Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-U).
During the launch in Kampala on Tuesday, information pills HRNJ National Coordinator, Robert Sempala noted that the index took stock of the time when Uganda held its presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections, during which a number of violations against journalists were registered.
He also pointed out recent incidences where the media was blocked from covering the Omusinga wa Rwenzururu Court proceedings, orders stopping some media houses from publishing reports on the assassination of AIGP Felix Kaweesi, the kidnapping of an NTV Journalist and threats of kidnap to The Investigator website CEO.
“For the fourth year running, the Police Force has topped the list of offenders with 83 cases out of a total of 135 recorded throughout the year; accounting for 61 percent,” said Mr Sempala.
Attacks from ordinary citizens acting individually or as mobs came second in the report at 17 percent. There were also violations recorded to a much lesser extent by the UPDF, Uganda Prisons Service and Resident District Commissioners.
Sempala added that media employers have also accounted for 6 percent of the cases of violations, most of which have largely manifested in the rural radio stations, where proprietors care primarily about profit and less about reporters’ welfare.
On their part, the Police through the Kampala Metropolitan Area publicist Emilian Kayima, said the force has on a number of occasions been wrongly accused of rights violations.
“We have the notion of the presumption of innocent until proved guilty; but for every case that we have handled, we have been rendered guilty. Even when we invite a journalist to record a statement, that is also taken as another case of violation,” said Kayima.
The police publicist appealed to media players to sanitize the profession, noting that there is still a lot of lack of professionalism therein.
He went on to suggest that HRNJ arranges a meeting with Police and the IGG to internally discuss the contents of the report, try to explain each of the individual cases and the conclusions be included in the report next year.
At the launch, HRNJ called upon police authorities to popularize the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act 2012 throughout the force, particularly the imperative of individual accountability.