10th July 2014
Press Statement: For Immediate Release
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) has persistently raised concerns over the abuse of journalists while on duty by both the State and non-state operatives. We have taken up these matters with those concerned especially in police, army, prisons, courts of law and other agencies but without success. In the past three years, HRNJ-Uganda has lodged over a dozen complaints with the Police Standards Unit against errant police officers that harass media practitioners, but to date no appropriate remedial actions are taken against these errant officers. HRNJ-U has further engaged the Uganda Human Rights Commission to help curb this vice; unfortunately UHRC has not yet taken action on this front.
It is against this background therefore, that HRNJ-Uganda in collaboration with the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) and Eastern Africa Media Institute Uganda Chapter (EAMI-U) –also otherwise known as the partnership for a free press and independent media, have resolved to drag to court the Wandegeya District Police Commander (DPC), Mr Tusingwire Ceaser, as the first culprit for harassing and mistreating a journalist, Mr. Mulindwa Mukasa of the Associated Press and Board Chairman of HRNJ-Uganda.
On May 20th 2014, Mulindwa Mukasa, with support from the partners for a free press and independent media sued Tusingwire Ceaser at the High Court of Uganda for violating Mulindwa’s constitutional rights, while Tusingwire was purporting to be executing his police duties of law enforcement.
Through his lawyers from the Centre for Legal Aid, Mulindwa argues that on November 24th, 2013 (When a Top Radio journalist, Kamagu was arrested), Tusingwire infringed or threatened his rights as enshrined in Articles 23(1), 24, 26(2), 27, 29(1)(a), and (2)(a), 40(2), and 44(a) of the Uganda Constitution when he ordered his officers to slap, unlawfully search, assault and confiscate his gadget he used to take a photo of police officers manhandling another journalist, William Ntege aka Kyumakyayesu at Wandegeya police station.
Mulindwa further argues that he was arbitrarily, unreasonably and unlawfully disrupted, restricted, arrested and his material deleted from his gadget by police officers acting on the orders of Tusingwire.
In his prayers, Mulindwa wants the Court to dismiss Mr. Tusiingwire Ceaser from the Uganda Police Force, or declare him unfit to remain in Uganda Police Force, or to serve the Government of Uganda in any official capacity specified under the Leadership Code Act, 2002. In the alternative, Mulindwa wants the court to direct the relevant agencies of Government to take swift and severe disciplinary action against him.
This case seeks to reverse the rising tide of intolerance against the media and protect journalists against mistreatment and violations of their rights while on duty by law enforcement officers and other public officials. This serves to send a strong message that any person, whether in the security agency or public office that arbitrarily interferes with the work of journalists will be targeted individually and held accountable.
Given the deteriorating media working environment in Uganda, HRNJ-Uganda, CEPIL and EAMI-U have undertaken to offer joint support to journalists whose rights have been infringed upon or threatened by the public and law enforcements officers like police, soldiers, security guards and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) among others by holding the perpatrators individually liable for their unprofessional conduct. This form of support will be extended to all media houses that are arbitrarily interfered with by public officials and institutions.
We call upon all journalists and media houses that have been subjected to abuse by public officials acting outside their lawful mandate to come forward with their complaints so that the culprits are pursued and held responsible for their professional misconduct and unlawful acts.
In the same vein, HRNJ-Uganda, with its two partners has filed a petition in the Constitutional court seeking the nullification of the Press and Journalists Act of 2000 because it is unconstitutional and curtails press freedom guaranteed in the Constitution of Uganda.
Together in pursuit of Freedom of the media and speech in Uganda
National Coordinator- HRNJ-Uganda