Friday, December 31, 2010

Government blocks radios from live broadcasting

Kampala, 31st/Dec/2010; The Broadcasting Council of Uganda has blocked privately owned radio stations from broadcasting live a conference organized by Buganda Kingdom (Ttabamiruka).

Ttabamiruka is an annual conference organized by Buganda kingdom to review and discuss the social, cultural, economic and developmental issues of the Kingdom. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Poverty and Development’.

The conference held on 17th/Dec/2010, at the Wampewo avenue based Hotel Africana, a suburb of Kampala, was supposed to be broadcasted live by different radio stations including Buganda Kingdom owned radio the Central Broadcasting Services (CBS FM), but were all stopped by the Broadcasting Council (BC).

By the time a directive was made by the Broadcasting Council, CBS FM was already relaying the debates live.

A CBS FM staff who preferred anonymity said the radio received a telephone call from the Broadcasting council suspending the live broadcast- equating it to an open air talk show locally known as ‘Ebimeeza’ which were banned in September 2009.

“We only broadcasted live the speech of the King His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II” a staff said. The radio was accused of not consulting the Broadcasting council on issues to be discussed and aired during the conference.

Buganda Kingdom is one of the largest ethnic groups in Uganda based in the central region, with most of its people languishing in poverty.

The national poverty statistics according to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that more than 38% of the total population in Uganda lives below poverty line.

The chairman of the Broadcasting Council Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi told Human Rights Network for Journalists –Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the conference was not much different from the banned Ebimeeza which were broadcasted from the bars.

“We were not informed as a regulatory body about the topics to be discussed and the guests. So what they were doing was illegal because we banned Ebimeeza in 2009. We were even taken to court over our action”. Mutabazi said.

He explained that there is a license requirement that all radio stations planning to have live programmes broadcasting should own pre-listening gadgets but most radio stations have still failed to comply.

“We can tolerate live soccer matches or Independence commemorations but not debates” Eng. Mutabazi stressed.

In September2009, the council arbitrary closed down five privately owned radio stations including 88.8 and 89.2 CBS FM, Ssuubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two (Akkaboozi) and consequently banned open air radio talk shows.

HRNJ-Uganda feels that the Broadcasting council is over stepping its powers when it begins to regulate people’s thoughts, conscience and information. These actions are illegal because they limit space under which citizens exercise their fundamental freedoms and liberties stipulated under Art. 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

Art. 29(a) states that, “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and the media”

“Ugandans must be free to discuss any issues that touch their lives and their views must be heard by those in authority as a way of holding them accountable, especially during this campaign period. The radio is a primary source of information to Ugandans which must operate independently without interference from the government”. Said the HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman, Robert Ssempala

In light of this, HRNJ-Uganda calls on the judiciary to speed-up the hearing of a case challenging the Broadcasting council’s power over people’s right to freedom of expression which was filed early 2010.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Monday, December 20, 2010

Journalist beaten up at a campaigning rally

Mpigi, 20th/12/2010; Supporters of Mawokota North aspiring Member of Parliament Peter Claver Mutuluza have roughed-up and beaten a journalist Drake Kizito at a campaigning rally.

Kizito, a journalist with Ink Media Agency had gone to cover Mutuluza’s rally on 17th/12/2010 at Jjeza parish, Muduuma sub-county, Mawokota north in Mpigi district.

The Mawokota North seat has attracted five candidates including Ameria Kyambadde a former president Museveni’s private secretary from the ruling party (National Resistance Movement), Peter Claver Mutuluza as an independent, Tebusweke Mayinja from Democratic Party, Buwembo Shafik from Forum for Democratic Change and Kaweesa Ahmed of the Justice Forum ticket.

Mutuluza is an incumbent Member of Parliament for Mawokota North who won the seat in 2006 on the National Resistance Movement ticket.

An eye witness told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the rally had registered fewer people and Mutuluza was accusing police for blocking his supporters.

Drake Kizito said “he traded accusations before his supporters when he saw him joining his rally with a camera. “He accused me of spying for Ameria Kyambadde” His supporters rounded me up immediately and started beating me until police came for my rescue” Kizito said got injuries on his two legs.

When HRNJ-Uganda contacted Hon. Mutuluza he did not own up nor deny the matter.

“This is the first case of assault at the campaigning rally to be recorded by HRNJ-Uganda since the campaigns for members of parliament started on 16th/December/2010. “It indicates that campaigns for members of parliament are likely to be more violent than presidential and local government campaigns” HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala said.

By the time this alert was written nobody had been summoned for questioning nor arrested despite that Kizito reported the matter and recorded statement at Jjeza police post.

HRNJ-Uganda demands that Hon. Mutuluza be arrested for inciting violence and assaulting a journalist.

For more information contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road Mengo-Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Preparatory School
P.O.Box.71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 /+256-414-667627
Toll Free Helpline; 0800144155

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HRNJ-Uganda Ten-Month Case Report: More than 50 journalists exposed to violence between January and October 2010.

Kampala, 14th/12/2010; Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has launched a campaign to mitigate the deteriorating security of journalists in the lead up to, during and after February 2010 general elections.

The campaign offers complaint handling mechanism (a toll free helpline 0800144155 for victim journalists), established press freedom monitors and standby lawyers based in all regions, will hold meetings with different stakeholders including security agencies, political parties and government officials among others.

The campaign comes at a time when a “Ten-Month Case Report” released by HRNJ-Uganda indicated that more than 50 journalists were subjected to different forms of violence.

The report reveals that radio workers are at a higher risk compared to their counterparts in print, with 17 cases followed by reporters. Others were photojournalists who had 15 cases, television workers with 4 cases and one journalist working for online publication. “The number of victims this year is very outrageous. It is doubling the cases recorded in 2009 and it’s a worrying trend for the media in Uganda”. HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala said.

The period under review has witnessed threats reaching their peak with the murder, by mob violence of two journalists RIP Paul Kiggundu and Dickson Ssentongo, both working for Christian radio stations namely; Radio Top and Radio Prime respectively.

This occurred at a time when the media was just recovering from the unprecedented crackdown by state in 2009 following widespread riots, ending in the closure of five radio stations. All these radios are now back on air but to a new order where media has been compelled by fear of antagonizing the State to institute a high level of self censorship that has to a large measure impacted on quality of content and devalued the essence of the media as a public sphere.

Such an atmosphere has created the worst environment for the media in the history of Uganda. Cases witnessed in the period under review ranged from; attacks and threats with 14 cases, illegal arrest and detention with 8, torture/inhuman treatment with 7, judicial sanctions with 7, police harassment with 5, and state interference with 1.

The report noted State sanctions which have changed from direct intervention to subtle actions and threats from agents of the State, particularly the regulatory Broadcasting Council, and in some cases, by Resident District Commissioners, who have turned themselves into unappointed media monitors.

The combination of threats, overt and covert actions made journalism a less enviable profession and a risky one too. As if this is not enough, the State maintained its resolve to put more controls on the media through a Bill now before Parliament to amend the media laws and introduce more strict measures and to provide for more offences against journalists and media.

The report ranked police with the highest number of cases committed against journalists with 16 cases. This is the third time that police is ranked in the same position by subsequent reports.

The public which is supposed to be the source of protection of the media ranked second with 13 cases committed against journalists. Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) with 4 cases, paramilitary groups with 3 cases, state with 2 cases, Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) with 2 cases, regulators with 1 and others with 6 cases.

“These developments must be looked at within the broader context of the forthcoming general elections. A media system characterized by fear of the State, job loss, personal security and harassment by civilians cannot provide the space for critical examination of issues that are at the heart of the voters during this electoral period” veteran journalist John Baptist Wasswa said.

The report has however noted major victories in Courts with the decriminalization of the offence of sedition. The ruling deprived the State of one of the most notorious instruments it used against media and consolidated the confidence of media in the Courts.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda has observed that the state of media freedom and practice in Uganda is of continuing and in some cases escalating threats to media personnel; increased fear by media owners, managers and practitioners especially in the electronic media, following the post-September riots crackdown. This fear has permeated all sections of the media leading to a dumping down of important programs that touch on issues of governance and democracy. Other threats that have characterized this year are State interference in media matters, judicial sanctions, harassment by the Police in many parts of the country; the sophistication of police interventions in media work, following the creation of specialized desks on Media Offences. This desk has since its creation not focused on how to enable public enjoyment of media freedoms but on imagining potential offences the media might commit.

Other concerns over the year ending are increased attacks on individual journalists, threats of a new regime of laws under the proposed amendment to the Press and Journalists Statute of 1995, and hostile propaganda against the media by senior people in government and security organizations.

We therefore recommend that as follow;
(a) That media proprietors should facilitate their employees which will safe guard them from avoidable attacks.
(b) The government should stay the proposed Press and Journalists Amendment Bill because it has potential to make media difficult during this electoral period.
(c) Court should dismiss sedition charges against journalists in respect to the court judgment
(d) All media activists led by human rights organizations should draft a declaration for respect for freedom of the media and expression. The candidates, both at presidential and other levels should be called upon to sign up in support of this declaration.
(e) Media organizations should start a joint and massive campaign to sensitize the public against attacks to journalists.
(f) Parliament should enact the over shelved ‘Torture’ bill which will criminalize torture and hold errant officers responsible for their crimes.
(e) Media managers and Police need to develop a working framework especially during the election period to avoid conflict.
(f) Media activists should start working on a law that will operationalise the media freedoms stipulated in the Constitution. Despite the Bill of Rights being enshrined in the Constitution, many people, including officers of government, security officers, politicians and the general public do not fully understand their operationalisation. It is incumbent on media to start the process by drafting a private bill that will seek to spell out how these freedoms should be enjoyed.

To access a full index report log in

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road Mengo-Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Preparatory School
P.O.Box.71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 /+256-414-667627
Toll Free Helpline; 0800144155
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bishop Strangles a photo journalist

Kampala, 07th/12/2010; The Anglican Bishop for Western Buganda Diocese, The Rt. Rev. Kefa Kamya Ssemakula has manhandled and strangled a photo journalist working with Kamunye news paper- a sister Luganda newspaper of the Red Pepper publication. This took place on 6th/Dec/2010, at about 3:00pm.

Brian Luwagga was photographing the Bishop at the Masaka High Court premises were the Bishop had been dragged by the Christian followers in the Diocese led by Mugabi John and Lubega Bowazi opposed to the way the Bishop’s successor Rev. Can. Makumbi Godfrey had been elected. They wanted court to nullify the election.

They however withdrew the case because it had been overtaken by events since the election had been rushed and finished before court could make a judgment. The petitioners are however intending to file another petition blocking Rev. Can. Makumbi Godfrey’s consecration.

Bishop Ssemakula grabbed Luwagga by the collar demanding to know who had given him the permission to take his photos.

“He grabbed me by the collar and pressed my neck hard asking for my permission to photography him. He was joined by the diocese spokesperson, Rev. Enock Muwanguzi. I told them that I was a journalist but would not listen. They demanded that I delete the photos, but I refused”. Narrated Luwagga.

Luwagga said he was rescued by other people opposed to the Bishop’s ways of work, “when they demanded to know what the matter was, the Bishop was scared away and ran to his waiting car and sped off. The scuffle lasted for about 20minutes.

The Diocesan spokesperson, Rev. Muwanguzi defended the Bishop. He told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that Luwagga did not introduce himself to the Bishop prior to taking the photos.

“The Bishop was angered by this man who kept on photographing him right from the court proceedings and followed him all the way to the courtyard. So he demanded to know who this person was. So it’s not true that he manhandled and strangled him”. Said Muwanguzi

“HRNJ-Uganda is dismayed by the clergymen’s actions against the journalist. We demand that the Arch Bishop of the Church of Uganda, Rt. Rev. Luke Orombi intervenes and prevails over Bishop Ssemakula and Rev. Muwanguzi. The religious leaders are supposed to be the mirrors of the society” There should be a meeting to reconcile these two key members of the society”. Said the HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala

For more information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road-Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.Box. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
Toll Free Helpline: 0800144155

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Journalist under police harassment

Kampala, 23rd/Nov/2010; A journalist working with Uganda Record, an online publication in Uganda is under police harassment over the July 11th Kampala bombs story.

Mr. Timothy Nyakahuma Kalyegira was summoned to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) on the 3rd/August/2010 over a story about the possible Kampala bombers in July 2010. He was grilled for hours at the Kiira road CID police station. He had his house searched, laptop confiscated and his cell phones taken away by the police.

More than 80 people died during and after the bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Club- Lugogo and the Ethiopian village located at Kabalagala, a Kampala Suburb.
On August 20th, 2010 Nakawa Court issued an injunction barring journalists from reporting details of Police investigations into the bomb blasts. This injunction was applied for by Police.

The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2002 states that any person who establishes, runs or supports any institution for promoting terrorism, publishing and disseminating news or materials that promote terrorism is also liable to suffer death upon conviction.
Kalyegira was charged on 3rd/Aug/2010 with sedition at police before the constitutional court nullified the case. He has since perpetually been kept reporting at the police to extend his police bond.

On August 25th, 2010 the Constitutional Court declared the law on sedition null and void. The five Judges including Justice Leticia Kikonyogo, Justice Steven Kavuma, Justice George Egwau, Justice Constance Byamugisha and Justice Augustine Nshiime nullified sections 39 and 40 of the Penal Code, Cap. 120, which define and establish the law on sedition.

He has reported for more than 14 times, but no conclusive investigations have been made to clear him or prosecute him.

He first reported on 4th/Aug/2010, and continued to report as follows;

19th/Oct/2010 and he continue to report and appear before Kiira Road CID boss Prudence Haguma.

“This is persecution at its best. Why would you keep someone perpetually in police without pronouncing yourself on his fate? Kalyegira gave his opinion which should not be used to persecute him unless the police had enough information to prosecute him.” HRNJ-Uganda Board chairman Robert Ssempala said.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda has given Uganda Police force a deadline of seven days to either withdraw the charges against Kalyegira or take him to court.

In the meantime, on 30th/11/2010 the state withdrew charges against 17 suspects who had been facing charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder. They were released by the Nakawa court chief magistrate Deo Ssejjemba.

For more information contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda
Kivebulaya Road Mengo –Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.Box: 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-667627 / +256-414-272934