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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Release by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa on the trend of attacks on journalists in Uganda

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), acting through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Lawrence Mute, expresses concern about the current trend of attacks on journalists in the Republic of Uganda.

In particular, the Special Rapporteur is concerned about reports that on 13 August 2018, NTV journalists Mr. Herbert Zziwa and Mr. Ronald Muwanga were arrested and detained at Arua police station and their equipment confiscated, allegedly 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. On 13 July 2018, reports indicate that police officers in Katakwi, Eastern Uganda, arrested three journalists, namely 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 against the newly introduced tax on mobile money transactions.

Additionally, it is reported that on 25 June 2018, Voice of Kigezi radio journalist Mr. Arinitwe Emmanuel was allegedly assaulted by the Kabale District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Keihwa Patrick Besigye, for reportedly covering alleged embezzlement from the Council involving the Chairperson.

Further reports indicate that on 30 July 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 notes that these alleged attacks undermine independent journalism, freedom of expression and free flow of information.

The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate 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 provides that “Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.”

The Government of Uganda has the obligation to take effective measures to prevent attacks on journalists and, when they occur, to investigate them, punish the perpetrators and to ensure that the victims have access to effective remedies, as provided in Principle XI of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

Additionally, the Resolution on the Safety of Journalists and Media Practitioners in Africa (ACHPR/Res.185 (XLIX)11), adopted by the Commission during the 49th Ordinary Session, held in Banjul, The Gambia, in May 2011, “calls on all States Parties to the African Charter and concerned authorities to fulfil their obligation on preventing and investigating all crimes allegedly committed against journalists and media practitioners and also to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Banjul, 20 August 2018