Freedom of Expression
In this period, press freedom in Uganda remains under threat as journalists continue to be attacked by security agencies. Human Rights Network for Journalist (HRNJ) Uganda received eighty-five complaints in 2012, forty two of which comprised of attacks on journalists by the police force. The attacks ranged from physical beatings, direct spraying, illegal arrest and detention, manhandling and stealing of property. Police have ranked the highest violators of the media freedom in Uganda since 2009.
On November 6th 2012, Ssematimba Bwejiire, a journalist for Radio Simba, was beaten by policemen and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officers as he attempted to record them impounding a commuter taxi. His audio recorder and money was also stolen in the attack. He was later released following an intervention by Resident City Commissioner Samuel Hashaka, who referred to the incident as “unfortunate”.
Mr. Gerald Kankya, winner of 2011 EU Human Rights Defenders Award, together with his colleagues from Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), a project to sensitize communities in the Rwenzori region of Uganda about the relevance of freedom of speech and association and holding leaders accountable through open and public debate, has been a victim of continuous harassment and intimidation from government authorities. On 19th October 2012 Mr. Kankya received verbal summons from a local officer from Fort Portal Criminal Investigation Directorate to appear at the station the same day. These summonses were in relation to inciting violence and defaming the Tooro kingdom Queen mother. He refused to present himself to the police. In November the charges were not dropped and were expected to be reinstated.
On 18th January 2013, Mr. Kankya and his colleagues received more summons to report to the police for questioning. The summonses were in relation to a broadcast on 29th November 2012 of the Twerwaneho Program on Better FM that allegedly contained defamatory statements against the First Lady. Fearing that they would be detained over the weekend without being able to apply for bond, the HRDs informed police through letter that they would report on 21st January 2013. When the HRDs reported to the police they were arrested, before being released on police bond two days later, but have not yet been officially charged.
On 21st January 2013, the Uganda Communications Commission ordered the management of a local radio station, “Endigito” to suspend a talk show host James Kasiirivu or risk losing its operational license. Mr. Kasiirivu confirmed to HRNJ-Uganda that he was stopped by his bosses from hosting the talk show on 10th January 2013. He was also stopped from airing two other programmes “News Hour” which carried political analysis and commentaries on the major news events and “World Express”, which highlighted major global news and events.
On 6th March 2013, the Resident District Commissioner for Otuke district in Northern Uganda, Alu Kalungi Ssalongo, reportedly assaulted radio journalist Joseph Ekol, damaging and deleting his recorded audio material. The assault took place after the journalist recorded an exchange between the commissioner and other political leaders who were attending a workshop on environmental preservation. Ekol filed a case of threatening violence at Lira Central Police Station, but the witness he had presented to testify against the commissioner was arrested and detained for over an hour by the police. Eventually the witness was charged with assault and released on bond.
On 18th March 2013, prison warders at Kalisizo prison assaulted two journalists who were covering news of an escape. The two journalists, Pascal Lutabi, a reporter with WBS television and the Daily Monitor, and John Bosco Mulyowa, a reporter for Bukedde Media, were both detained at Rakai police station for over an hour. Lutabi reported being beaten for 30 minutes by a number of officers, who also beat him with a gun butt and a stick. His video camera and photo camera were destroyed and confiscated.
There has been a series of arrests of anti- corruption activists. On 4th February 2013, Ugandan Police arrested nine activists for distributing anti-corruption materials at Makerere University, Kampala and detained them at Wandegeya Police station. They were charged with inciting violence and later released on police bond after spending several hours in the police cell. On 7th January 2013, in a similar incident, two other activists, Arthur Larok of Action Aid Uganda and Leonard Okello were also arrested for giving out the same material. In another incident in November 2012, police cordoned off a hired venue and blocked activists from using it to launch the “Black Monday Movement,” an anti-corruption campaign which distributes information booklets on the current state of corruption in the country.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, introduced by Hon. David Bahati, was brought back to parliament in early 2012. The bill has been on Parliament’s order paper – which means that it could be imminently discussed – since late 2012. While Parliament did not fulfil the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s promise to pass the bill as a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people, the bill’s presence is contributing to the harassment and general insecurity faced by the LGBTI community in the country.
- Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, Press Freedom Index Uganda 2012, www.hrnjuganda.org/reports.php↵
- Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, Ugandan journalist attacked for recording taxi impoundment, 7th November 2012 http://www.ifex.org/uganda/2012/11/07/police_and_city_enforcement/↵
- EHAHRDP, EHAHRDP congratulates Gerald Kankya on winning EU HRD award, 3rd May 2012 http://www.defenddefenders.org/2012/05/uganda-ehahrdp-congratulates-gerald-kankya-on-winning-eu-hrd-award/↵
- Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, President’s representative assaults journalists, deletes recorded material , 11th March 2013 http://www.hrnjuganda.org/index-al-02.php↵
- Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda, Prison warders assault journalists, destroy their gadgets, 20th March 2013 http://www.hrnjuganda.org/index-al-01.php↵