The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Commissioner Lawrence Mute, has expressed concern over the trend of attacks on journalists in Uganda, and is calling on the government to take effective measures to prevent further attacks against journalists. He emphasised that the nation has an obligation, in the event of an attack to properly investigate, punish the perpetrators and to ensure that the victims have access to effective remedies as provided for in the Principle XI of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
He pointed out that these alleged attacks undermine independent journalism, freedom of expression and free flow of information.
The Special Rapporteur listed a number of brazen attacks on journalists that took place in the country which were of concern to him.
Reports have it that on August 13, 2018, NTV journalists, Mr. Herbert Zziwa and Mr. Ronald Muwanga were arrested and detained at Arua police station and their equipment confiscated for covering demonstrations by opposition parties ahead of the Arua by-election. Reports indicate that other journalists were either injured or deterred as a result of fear from continuing live reporting.
Another reports have it that on July 13, 2018, police officers in Katakwi, Eastern Uganda, arrested three journalists: Mr. Kenneth Odere of NTV, Mr. Eddy Enuru of NBS TV and Mr. Simon Emwamu of Daily Monitor as they were covering a demonstration by local mobile money operators, who were protesting a newly introduced tax on mobile money transactions.
Additionally, it was reported that on June 25, 2018, Voice of Kigezi radio journalist, Mr. Arinitwe Emmanuel was allegedly assaulted by the Kabale District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Keihwa Patrick Besigye, for covering alleged embezzlement from the Council involving the Chairperson.
Further reports indicate that on July 30, 2018, Mr. Damba Waziri, a journalist working with the Vision Group Uganda who was covering a demonstration by an opposition political party in Sheema Municipality, was physically attacked and his equipment confiscated by Government officials.
The Special Rapporteur also reiterated that protection of the rights of journalists to freely inform Ugandans on matters of public interest and concern is in conformity with Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which says: “Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.”