Senegal: CPJ says press in Uganda face restrictions, attacks

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern that journalists in Uganda are being prevented from freely covering parliament and campaigning for next month's presidential elections.

In a statement, made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Saturday, CPJ said that Uganda’s government announced this week that journalists without a university qualification would be barred from covering parliament.

According to the statement, journalists have also reported being attacked and threatened while covering the election campaign.

"The entire democratic process is undermined if journalists are restricted whether through arbitrary regulations or physical violence from covering politicians," remarked Sue Valentine, CPJ's Africa programme coordinator.

The press freedom body disclosed that on Monday, Ugandan parliamentary Commission had sent a letter to news outlets that said journalists without university degrees would be barred from covering parliament as of May 2016.

The statement further quoted Chris Obore, the communication manager for parliament, defending the decision, as saying, "We want journalists with degrees because we believe they are the ones who can ably follow the debate in parliament and report appropriately to the public."

Several Ugandan journalists are said to have protested over the change.

"Demanding that no one can enter the press gallery without a bachelor's degree is tantamount to licensing for journalists. Legislators lose all legitimacy unless they operate under public scrutiny. We urge the Parliamentary Commission to overturn this ban,’’ Valentine said.

Meanwhile, the statement disclosed that several journalists have also reported being attacked this month.

"Security forces must respect the right of journalists to do their jobs and we urge all political parties to ensure their supporters allow the press to cover events without fear of harassment or intimidation," Valentine added.

According to CPJ, last Monday, Ali Golooba Lukuuba, a reporter for the privately-owned Radio Buddu, based in Masaka, was beaten and had his equipment taken by security guards while covering a speech by local politician Hajji Muyanja Mbabaali.

Lukuuba narrated that he was recording a speech by the local politician when he was surrounded by six security guards who asked why he was recording their candidate.

The men then allegedly hit and kicked the journalist, and confiscated his equipment even though according to Lukuuba he had told his attackers that he was a journalist and showed his ID.

The journalist was said to have sustained pain in his leg, back, and chest since the alleged assault and also filed a complaint with the Ugandan police.

In a similar development, CPJ said George Obia, the Moroto district police commander, allegedly assaulted and threatened four reporters and destroyed the camera of a journalist with NTV.

Galiwango Ronald, of the privately-owned station NTV; Kenneth Oryema, of the privately-owned daily New Vision; Ernest Kyazze, from the privately-owned daily Bukedde; and Julius Ariong, correspondent for the independent Daily Monitor in Moroto, were in Nadiket to report on a road block allegedly set up by police to prevent an opposition presidential candidate from reaching his supporters in the area.

The press freedom watchdog quoted Ariong as saying that the police commander threatened the journalists and ordered them to hand over a camera.

CPJ also quoted Obia admitting the altercation but denied responsibility for breaking a camera, adding that the damage resulted from the journalists' refusal to hand over the equipment when asked.

The statement also pointed out that the police had said the roadblock was set up because of an accident and not to prevent a candidate from reaching supporters.

Meanwhile, CPJ said earlier this month it had documented the case of two editors from the privately-owned daily Red Pepper and privately-owned weekly Kamunye who were summoned by local police for questioning on 7 January, and subsequently arrested and held overnight.

Ben Byarabaha and Dickson Mubiru were said to have been released without charge the following day.

Rights groups have raised concerns ahead of Uganda’s 18 February elections and Human Rights Watch also released a report detailing threats and harassment of journalists and news outlets over their election coverage.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 16Jan2016

16 january 2016 11:53:55

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