Counter Terrorism Police arrest journalist

Derrick Kiyonga in white shirt(left)

Derrick Kiyonga in white shirt(left)

Kampala, 24th /September/2015; The Counter Terrorism Police, yesterday 23rd,September,2015 arrested a journalist from a court room in Kampala, detained him for one and a half hours accusing him of indulging in “ work that is not his”. He was released without any charges.

Derrick Kiyonga a court reporter with the Observer newspaper was arrested at around 1.00pm as he came out of the court where he is covering the case of the people suspected to have planted the twin bombs in Kampala in 2010 during the world cup final that killed more than 70 people and injured several.

As i was coming out of the court room, a counter terrorism officer stood in front of me and said you are under arrest. He took me to a police patrol car, forced me in and drove off at a break neck speed to place I did not know,” Kiyonga told HRNJ-Uganda.

He said he was put in a room, ordered to remove his shoes. His phone and note book were taken away before he was subjected to questioning. “Three men started interrogating me. They asked me what relationship I have with the suspects in court, my family background, my parents and so many other things.”

Earlier on while in court Kiyonga had been summoned by a plain clothed police officer and warned over passing on chits from the suspects to their lawyers. “I got concerned and told Caleb about the warning by the security officer. I passed on the chit innocently and did not know the contents therein. Journalists usually do it because they sit between suspects and their lawyers”. Said Kiyonga. Caleb Alaka raised Kiyonga’s concerns with the trial judge, Alphose Owiny Dollo. The judge ruled that there was no problem with what the journalist had done and warned the security from intimidating people in court. He said the suspects have a right to consult their lawyers.

When the court session ended, Kiyonga was arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination. In the afternoon, the defence lawyer Caleb raised the matter again to the judge who said he will not continue with the trial until the journalist is released.

The Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, Onyango Patrick, told HRNJ-Uganda that Kiyonga was arrested “for doing work which was not his”. Why was he doing work which is not his? Onyango asked.When asked what offence Kiyonga committed for passing on a chit from a suspect to his lawyer, Onyango said “you read law books”.

“HRNJ-Uganda is pleased by the actions taken by Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo. The Uganda Police Force has an obligation to respect rule of law and the Judiciary as an institution of justice. Free flow of information should not be curtailed on mere suspicion by police” said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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Senior Community Development Officer assaults journalist

JouJinja 19th/September/2015; Shamshad Naluggya, a Bukedde TV journalist, was yesterday assaulted by the Njeru Town Council Senior Community Development Officer, Joyce Guleeta, accusing her of recording a meeting without her knowledge.

Naluggya had gone to cover a meeting that had been called to follow up a complaint filed by a group of disadvantaged students who allege that their care taker had stopped paying their school fees yet she was still receiving the money from the donors.

I was recording the meeting, when Joyce said, who is that person recording? I replied that I am a journalist but before I completed the statement she moved out of her seat, grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, pushed me against the wall and scratched my neck. She pushed me out of the office and called other people who helped her to take me in another room demanding for the recording,” Naluggya told HRNJ-Uganda today.

A social civil activist who was part of the meeting, Kevin Richard Kalule, who witnessed the events unfolding, told HRNJ that “Sham was strangled, beaten and her camera grabbed by the Senior Community Development Officer of Njeru Town Council as she asked her ‘why are you recording me I am a social worker.’ Her upper button of the shirt fell off during the scuffle. They held her for more than 20 minutes in the room before being set free. Sham was really embarrassed.”

However, Joyce Guleeta when asked about the incident she advised HRNJ to train young journalists to be professional. “When I asked her who are you? she just run away. I requested my colleagues to bring her back to my office, I instructed one officer to get the recording from her.”

Naluggya said she was taken by a man in a room where she was ordered to produce the recordings. The man searched the camera but could not find the recordings.

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HRNJ-Uganda alert, Medical practitioner testifies in journalist’s assault case.

IMG_20150915_104704Kampala, 15th September 2015; further hearing of a case in which a Wavah Broadcasting Services (WBS) Journalist, Andrew Lwanga was allegedly assaulted by Joram Mwesigye, the former Division Police Commander of Old Kampala Police Station continued today at the Chief Magistrates Court of Buganda Road., with the medical doctor Nuwamanya Emmanuel giving his evidence.

In his testimony, Dr. Nuwamanya told court presided over by Principal Grade 1 Magistrate Mary Margaret Kaitesi that he is a medical doctor and a police surgeon attached to Police Medical Head Quarters. He further told court that on 15th January 2015, he carried out medical examination upon Andrew Lwanga from Nsambya Hospital where he was admitted.

I examined the victim from Nsambya Hospital and found that he had a swelling behind the left ear, mild tenderness over his chest wall on the left front side below the breast. The injuries were about two days old and the cause of the injury was as a blunt object force. The injuries were classified as harm.” Nuwamanya told court.

When Andrew Lwanga was contacted by HRNJ-Uganda, he said that the case had stalled and this was exposing him to danger. He however noted that the evidence that the medical doctor adduced in court was very relevant for his case.

Prosecution led by Muhumuza Edward Prosecution alleges that on 12th January 2015, while covering a demonstration by a group of unemployed youths who were heading to Police Headquarters in Naguru to deliver a letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) General Kale Kayihura to allow them hold rallies in the different parts of the City, Andrew Lwanga was assaulted by Joram Mwesige, the former Division Police Commander of Old Kampla Police Station thereby sustaining body injuries.

The case was adjourned to 7th October 2015 for the final prosecution to testify and prosecution is expected to close its case.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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Journalists charged with criminal defamation released from prison after six days.

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Nahabwe Ronald and Tugumisiirize Benon standing outside the Court premises just after their release.

Kampala, 20th/August/2015; Two Red Pepper journalists were on 19th August released almost a week later since they were remanded to Luzira after failing to pay a cash bail of 2 million Uganda shillings (USD571) each. Nahabwe Ronald and Tugumisiirize Benon were on August 13th , 2015 charged with criminal defamation before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate, Lillian Bucyana and granted bail, but they failed to raise the money and were remanded to prison up to September 9, 2015. The New Vision’ Madina Nalwanga and Patrick Tumwesigye were released on that day after paying the money.

A team of lawyers including HRNJ-Uganda’s Diana Nandudu and Kenneth Ntende applied for a production warrant before the Chief Magistrate which was obtained on August 18th , 2015, resulting into the duo’s release the next day at about 1:00pm local time.

On 13th August 2015, Nahabwe, and Tugumisirize together Nalwanga and Tumwesigye were charged with six counts of criminal defamation. According to the charge sheet, the four allegedly wrote and published in their respective newspapers defamatory statements against two Kampala businessmen, Ntaganda Ephraim and Francis Drake Lubega. However, the charge sheet does not specifically disclose the criminal defamatory statement alleged to have been published by the victim journalists.

Prosecution of the four brings the number of journalists in Uganda with pending criminal defamation cases to sixteen. Sections 179 and 180 of the Penal Code Act which provide for the offence of criminal defamation are being challenged in the East African Court of Justice, contending that their continued use is a violation of the fundamental and operating principles of the East African Community Treaty. Hearing of this case commenced on July 13th , 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Nahabwe described the spell in jail as a very difficult time, “It has been a very difficult time for us but we believe we shall go through it. We were ambushed when we appeared in court and remanded to Luzira Prison.” He told HRNJ-Uganda.

Ntaganda recently told HRNJ-Uganda that the four journalists were added on to the case after declining to reveal their sources of information to police and testifying against them in court.

We believe that these are trampled up charges. We are disturbed by the unjustified huge amount of money asked by the court from the journalists so as to secure their freedom. The conditions of granting bail are generally supposed to be reasonable. Therefore court should not use hash bail conditions to deny suspects justice.” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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HRNJ-Uganda Alert, Journalists charged with criminal defamation, remanded to prison for declining to testify against their source.

The journalists appearing in court at Buganda Road

The journalists appearing in court at Buganda Road

Kampala, 18th /August/2015; Four journalists were on 13th August, this year charged with criminal defamation at the Buganda Road court in Kampala. The four -two from a daily tabloid the Red Pepper and two others from the New Vision all denied the charges and applied for bail. The case was opened against the journalists by two city businessmen Drake Lubega and Ntaganda Ephraim who accuse them of declining to implicate their source of information, one Ssegawa Juma Tamale.

Ronald Nahabwe and Benson Tugumisirize of the Red Pepper together with Madina Nalwanga and Patrick Tumwesigye of the New Vision appeared before the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Lillian Buchyana to answer charges of criminal libel on 13th August 2015. All the four journalists were granted cash bail of two million shillings each. New Vision managed to secure bail for its journalists while the Red Pepper journalists were remanded to Luzira Prison till 9th September 2015 for failure to pay the bail money in time.

Ntaganda told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that the journalists were charged with defamation after failing to implicate their source of news. “…the case was never filed against the journalists, but they just wrote a story that I and Drake Lubega were trailing Segawa to kill him. We requested the journalists to go to police and make statements that this information had been given to them by Segawa Juma Tamale but the boys and one lady refused to disclose the sources of information and court decided to add them as suspects.” Ntaganda said.

Nalwanga told HRNJ-Uganda that they received information about fraudulent land transactions among some traders at Kisekka Market where the duo Lubega and Ntaganda were involved. On 4th June 2015, the Vision Group’ local paper Bukedde published a story regarding the fraudulent transactions. Red Pepper and its sister paper Hello had earlier in May this year published a similar story.

The case was adjourned to 9th Sept. 2015. The Red Pepper journalists are at remand in prison.

In 2014, a CBS radio journalist Ronald Ssembusi (now deceased) filed a case at the East African Court of Justice challenging sections 179 and 180 of the Penal Code Act. He contends that the continued use of the above sections which provide for the offence of criminal defamation is a violation of the fundamental and operating principles of the East African Community Treaty. Hearing of this case commenced on 31st July 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Defamation cases against journalists by people with economic muscles are on the increase. This is intended to silence journalists from critical and constructive reporting about the wild misuse of power. We appeal to the judiciary to exercise its independence and deliver justice in this case as this is intended to coerce journalists into revealing their sources of information to police. Journalists should not accept to testify against their sources as this will erode away public confidence in the media.” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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HRNJ-Uganda alert, State House orders Journalist to delete Mbabazi’s congratulatory message from magazine and apologize.

amama mbabazi

Mbabazi’s congratulatory message

Kiruhura, 05th/August/2015; The Managing Director of Eshato Publications Limited, Pison Mugizi has been ordered to delete Mbabazi’s congratulatory message from a consecration magazine of the new Bishop of the North Ankole Diocese, Stephen Namanya.

Information obtained by Human Rights Network for Journalist-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) indicates that this occurred at a meeting convened by the Diocesan Secretary of North Ankole Diocese, Canon Patrick Tinka, and was attended by the clergy and another official said to be a State House operative, who was introduced as ‘Chairman.’

On 2nd , August 2015, Mugizi a resident of Bushenyi district and his colleague, Robert Bingana of Ibanda district were arrested, while supervising the sale of the Magazines at the consecration venue at Rushere in Kiruhura district, where President Yoweri Museveni was the Chief Guest. He was detained at Kiruhura Police station, from 9:00 AM and released at 7:30 PM without any charge preferred against him. Copies of the Magazine were confiscated and others removed from those that had bought personal ones.

The North Ankole Diocese had contracted Eshato Publications Ltd. to publish a consecration magazine of Bishop Stephen Namanya. The company was allowed to get congratulatory messages from all Ugandans at a fee. The former Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Amama Mbabazi booked a page in the magazine, and so his congratulatory message was carried on page two.

Canon Tinka confirmed to HRNJ-Uganda that the said meeting took place, “We had a meeting with him then we resolved some issues. After one week, we will come back to the meeting and resolve the matter. Mbabazi does not even know where North Ankole is; so there is nothing much there, we shall finish it, there is no need of Human Rights, no need of lawyers…” Canon Tinka said

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that during the meeting, Eshato Publications Ltd. was told to print over 150 new copies of the magazine without Mbabazi’s congratulatory message. They were further told to apologize to the diocese for having incorporated message in the magazine. Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that, “State House put pressure on the diocese to have the message deleted.

We believe that this is violation of freedom of expression and the media. Free speech should not be criminalized by the State. The media should be allowed to operate freely even where dissenting views and opinions are concerned. Mugizi’ magazines should be released to him since no charges where preferred against him.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempal.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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The East African Court of Justice starts hearing a Criminal Defamation case of a journalist.

cathy11

A team of Lawyers who are on the criminal defamation case in the EACJ.

The East African Court of Justice in Arusha Tanzania on Friday July 31 started hearing a case in which a Ugandan journalist, the late Ssembuusi Ronald, challenged criminal defamation.  A panel of five Judges led by the Principal Judge of the Court, Justice Monica Mugenyi presided over the hearing in the First Instance Court.

The late Ssembuusi, who passed on in January this year is represented by Catherine Anite and Nicholas Opiyo of Oasis Advocates while the Attorney General of Uganda is represented by State Attorneys Jeffrey Atwine, Harriet Nalukenge and Ojambo Bichachi. 

Ssembuusi, a former CBS FM radio correspondent in Kalangala district died in January 2015 after filing his case with the EACJ. His lawyer, Catherine Anite, told journalists in Arusha that his death did not affect the case because the Rules of the Court allow for the appointment of a legal representative.            

ronald

The late Ssembuusi Ronald(right) poses for a photo with his lawyer Anite Catherine(left) after a court session in Kalangala (2014)

During the hearing, it sufficed that the Rules of the Court are unclear on how to notify Court about the death of a complainant and how to join the legal representative of the deceased to the suit. Ssembuusi’s lawyers wrote a letter to the Registrar of the Court about the death of their client and the duly appointed representative. But Court, using its discretional powers, directed them to file a motion substituting the deceased with the duly appointed legal representative. Court was adjourned to allow Ssembuusi’s lawyers to finalize the process.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, African Union, Media Legal Defence Initiative-London and nineteen other civil society organizations have filed applications at the East African Court of Justice seeking to intervene in the case

In their joint application filed at the Arusha Court on July 30th, both the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye and AU Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula said they will provide Court with expert interpretation on international law from the perspective of the AU and UN.

The Special Rapporteurs will provide insight as to how the AU and UN define the appropriate contours of government restrictions on speech and press in the context of defamation laws, and will assist the Court in assessing the Statute’s compatibility with the principles enshrined in the EAC Treaty,” stated Kaye and Pansy in their application.

The Media Legal Defence Initiative based in London and nineteen others in their application filed on July 10th stated that they have a strong interest in the case because it raises questions concerning the permissible limits on the right to freedom of expression including freedom of the press and the right to access information. The AU and UN are represented by Tanzanian Advocate William Ernest while MLDI and 19 others are represented by Senior Lawyer, Gimara Francis.

IMG_0253

The late Ssembuusi Ronald being supported by his fellow journalist together with his lawyer Anite Catherine outside a court building in Kalangala

In December 2014, Ssembuusi (now deceased) filed a case in the East Court of Justice challenging his conviction and one year jail term sentence by the Kalangala Magistrates Court on charges of criminal defamation. Ssembuusi in his affidavit contends that the continued use by the Uganda government of sections 179 and 180 of the Penal Code Act of Uganda which provide for the offence of criminal defamation is a violation of the fundamental and operating principles of the East African Community Treaty. He wants Court to determine whether or not these sections of the Penal Code Act place justifiable restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, media and access  to information that are protected by  the Treaty for Establishment of East African Community.

Article 40 of the EAC Treaty allows a Partner State, the Secretary General or a resident of a Partner State who is not a party to a case before the Court to ask to intervene with the aim of supporting or opposing the arguments of a party to the case.  In their request to intervene, the consortium of organizations say they will provide the EACJ with a comparative  and international law perspective that will enrich the court’s understanding  of the right  to freedom  expression, press and access to information which in turn “will enhance the Court’s assessment of Uganda’s criminal defamation law”.

“… a decision concerning Uganda’s criminal defamation law could potentially influence views of courts in other East African countries on criminal defamation issues … as well as other African countries. “ The organizations say the impact of the EACJ’s decision will go beyond Uganda’s boarders and that is why it is important for them to assist the Court in assessing Ssembuusi’s case.

The organizations that are seeking permission to intervene are Media legal Defence initiative, Africa Freedom of Information CentreArticle 19 Eastern Africa, Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building, Centre for Public Interest Law, Committee to Protect Journalists, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Freedom of Expression Institute, Ghanaian PEN Centre, Human Rights Network-Uganda, Media Council of Tanzania, Media Rights Agenda, Media Institute of Southern Africa,  Pan African Lawyers Union,  PEN International, PEN Sierra Leon, PEN South Africa, PEN Uganda and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

This is very encouraging, we hope the court will accept the request and allow these organizations and individuals to contribute towards enriching the jurisprudence of freedom of expression and the media in Uganda,” said Robert Ssempala, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda.

However, responding to MLDI’s affidavit sworn by Nani Jansen, the Principal State Attorney, Oburu Odoi Jimmy in his affidavit submitted to Court said it is “inconceivable “to expect these organizations “to give Court a cogent objective and impartial assistance” in determining Ssembuusi’s case. He said the organizations seeking to assist Court share the same objectives like Ssembuusi on criminal defamation. He asked Court not to allow their request because it will heavily prejudice the government’s defence against Ssembuusi.

On June 4, 2009 the Constitutional Court of Uganda, chaired by Justice SBK Kavuma ruled that criminal defamation is a justifiable restriction in a free and democratic society. However, on December 5 2014, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights directed Burkina Faso to amend its criminal defamation laws because they do not conform to Article 9 of the African Charter. Earlier in June 2014, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe annulled criminal defamation and said it is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.  

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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HRNJ-UGANDA ALERT, A POLICE OFFICER ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING A JOURNALIST.

FREDERICK KIWANUKA AFTER BEING ASSAULTED IN 2014

PHOTO:FREDERICK KIWANUKA AFTER BEING ASSAULTED IN 2014

Kampala, 27thJuly 2015; Edward Tibamwenda, a police officer attached to Lungujja police station was on 24th July 2015 arrested for allegedly assaulting a Vision Group Correspondent Frederick Kiwanuka based in Luweero District.

The Division Police Commander of Old Kampala Police Station (DPC) Ochamuringa Emmanuel told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda that Tibamwenda was arrested on the orders of the Senior Commandant of the Police’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) in Bukoto. He was taken to Bukoto and later taken to Luwero where he is due to appear in court over assaulting Kiwanuka. The Luwero OC CIID Luweero, Jjaggwe Raymond confirmed to HRNJ-Uganda that Tibamwenda would be produced in court on Monday to answer to his pending assault charges.

The Grade 1 Magistrate of Luweero Chief Magistrates Court, Evelyn Kyomugish issued criminal summons for Tibamwenda to appear in court but he was elusive. A warrant of arrest was issued for Tibamwenda to appear on 1st July but he did not appear in court.

Kiwanuka was pleased with the arrest of his tormentor, “I am seeing justice beginning to take place,” he told HRNJ-Uganda.

It is alleged that on 3rd April 2014, at about 9:00 pm, Kiwanuka was assaulted by Tibamwenda Edward who was then attached to Luweero Police Station. Kiwanuka had gone to Luweero Weigh Bridge to cover a story involving a strike by truck drivers who were demonstrating against police officers and UNRA officials for extorting money out of them.

Tibamwenda arrested, handcuffed and pepper sprayed Kiwanuka’s eyes. He was taken to Luweero police station where he was detained for over six hours and charged with inciting violence. The charge was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions for lack of merit.

Dr. Benon Agaba, the Deputy Director of Health Services in Luweero District who examined Frederick’s eyes said the damage that was inflicted was irreversible.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org
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Blatant abuse of media freedoms by State agencies threatens the watchdog role of the media ahead of the 2016 general elections in Uganda. Perpetrators must be brought to book.” Said HRNJ-Uganda

media

Photo of an international journalist during the closure of monitor publications in 2013

                                                26th/July/2015

HRNJ-Uganda Press Statement: For Immediate Release

Blatant abuse of media freedoms by State agencies threatens the watchdog role of the media ahead of the 2016 general elections in Uganda. Perpetrators must be brought to book.” Said HRNJ-Uganda

The government should uphold its duty to protect freedom of speech and expression be it information and ideas which are favorable to government or which offends, shocks or disturbs those in power as long as it is of public interest to the general population. This protection is particularly crucial in an election period, when the public relies on the media to provide equitable and factual information regarding the political discourse in the country.

In the last 30 days, HRNJ-Uganda documented three serious abuses to the media by State organs and politicians which have majorly curtailed the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in our Constitution. The first occurred on July 8th, 2015, when the Uganda Communications Commission issued a threatening statement to all broadcasters warning them against “negative and unprofessional trends” and “unauthorized and unreliable sources of information”.

Another happened on July 21st 2015 in Gulu when the police, acting on the orders of the Resident District commissioner of Gulu Andrew Moses Awanyi, arrested and detained a Jal Fresh FM radio talk show host, Payira Bonny, along with his three panalists; Okot Thomas, Oloya a.k.a Toko, a student at Gulu University, Okyak Silva -a former Guild President of Gulu University and Agwen Samuel the Local Councilor for Laroo Division in Gulu Municipality for alleged abusive language against President Museveni when they questioned his commissioning of uncompleted Gulu-Atiak road. On the same day, Baba FM, a local radio station located in Jinja District Eastern Uganda, Switched off the radio about 15 minutes into a one hour talk-show in which an opposition presidential hopeful, Dr. Besigye had been hosted, reportedly on the orders of the station management. The following day, three journalists were suspended from the station as a result.

HRNJ Uganda is extremely concerned by the government’s silence and failure to carry out its responsibilities to protect journalists and the general citizenry Constitutional right to freedom of expression and speech. This silence is an abdication of responsibility.

These incidents are unacceptable and are a breach of Uganda’s domestic laws, regional and international obligations to which Uganda is a party. These actions arbitrarily limit and impede individuals’ rights to express their views freely, and to gain information from thoughts expressed by others. Protection of these rights requires government action against the perpetrators and pro-activeness of mandate bodies like the Uganda Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Information and National Guidance by initiating investigations into the said violation of media rights.

The media owners and broadcasters, in spite of their own political leanings, must understand that the airwaves are a public property entrusted to them, which should not be used to undermine the rights of other Ugandans. Under the Uganda Communications Act, Schedule 4 (d), broadcasters must ensure that ‘where a programme that is broadcast is in respect to a contender for a public office, each contender is given equal opportunity on such a programme.’ UCC therefore has a responsibility to ensure that the airwaves are used responsibly, and that media owners do not deny the public their right to receive, seek and impart information through the media.

All media owners and managers should ensure that during this sensitive political heat in the run up to the general elections, all players are treated fairly and equitably in dire pursuit of free and fair elections which will in turn bleed and entrench the desired democracy which is obligatory for development in the country.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org

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HRNJ-Uganda alert, Ruling party boss fires journalists over hosting opposition presidential hopeful

Alton Kasolo

The three journalists who were suspended from Baba fm

Jinja, 23rd/July/2015; Three journalists were on 21ts July, 2015 suspended over hosting an opposition presidential hopeful who is also the former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye on Baba FM radio without permission from the radio management. The radio was switched off about 15 minutes into the one hour long talk-show in which Besigye was to discuss his political campaign in Busoga, reportedly on the orders of the station management.

Baba FM belongs to the Member of Parliament for Jinja West constituency, Moses Grace Balyeku who doubles as the ruling NRM party chairperson for Jinja district. Besigye had been hosted along with other Members of Parliament including Dr. Francis Epatait, Geoffrey Ekanya, Barbara Nekesa and Hon. Ssesaga. Besigye is on a country wide campaign to stand for the country’s presidency on his party ticket. He is tussling out with the FDC President, Gen. Mugisha Muntu. NRM endorsed President Museveni to stand as a sole party candidate for the presidency a portfolio he has held since 1986.

The victim journalists include Anyole Innocent who hosted the said program; he was the Programme Manager at the station. Others are Isabirye Aga David the Station’s News Editor who sources say was accused of being an opposition sympathizer, and Alton Kasolo –a morning show presenter who they accused of posting on his Facebook wall a pro-opposition material.

The program ended abruptly just after about 15 minutes into the scheduled one hour duration. It’s the listeners who walked into the studios and informed me that the radio had gone off. The engineers were not aware of what had happened.” Anyole told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda. He said that he was suspended the following day, “On 22nd July, 2015, I was suspended indefinitely by my immediate boss, the General Manager, Michael Kifubangabo that I hosted Besigye without the knowledge of management. The suspension was communicated verbally.” Anyole, who had hosted the show since December 2010, told HRNJ-Uganda.

Another victim told HRNJ-Uganda that he was not given any reason for his suspension. “They didn’t give me a reason but only told me that we were suspended until the Board sits to determine our fate. I will update you on any developments and what steps we are likely to take.” Aga said. The trio was immediately replaced with other workmates.

Efforts to talk to Hon. Balyeku were futile as he did not pick his calls. The General Manager, Kifubangabo Michael declined to explain the reasons for the suspension, “Have you seen their dismissal letter? Have you talked to them? Have they complained that they have been dismissed, or you even handle issues where no one has complained to you? You may be investing something which is non-existent.” Kifubangabo told HRNJ-Uganda on phone

This is a sad moment for the media in Uganda. The media is obligated to remain fair and objective, as a way of promoting free debate on National matters of public interest. We believe that the journalists needed to be heard in this matter prior to their suspension. We appeal to the station to re-instate without any stringent conditions. Said Robert Ssempala,” HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel:
+256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:
info@hrnjuganda.org
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