Reopening Cases of Attacks on Media a Positive Step for Press Freedom in Uganda
The decision by Uganda’s police force to reopen cases of violence committed against journalists in 2011, including two unsolved murders, is a positive step for a country that has suffered serious setbacks in freedom of expression amid increasing attacks on journalists, violent crackdowns on peaceful protest and journalists who cover them, and ongoing attempts to circumscribe press freedom through legal and regulatory means. Freedom House welcomes the May 30 apology by Uganda’s Inspector General of Police, Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura, to a group of media organizations for cases where police used excessive force against journalists, and his promise to investigate all 107 such allegations from last year.
The Uganda police department has also established a special unit dedicated to handling complaints submitted by the media of any abuse at the hands of authorities, according to the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda. Freedom House welcomes these steps, and encourages Ugandan officials to support the new unit’s mandate to thoroughly investigate violence against independent media, reduce impunity, and put a stop to attacks by police officers and any other non-state actors.
“The new emphasis on developing the police forces’ professionalism and respect for the role of media is a step towards ending impunity and hopefully improving the situation in Uganda,” said Courtney Radsch, Senior Program Manager for Freedom House’s Global Freedom of Expression Campaign. “The investigations must be genuine and effective, and the police empowered to investigate violence against media personnel quickly and comprehensively, or these positive steps will amount to little more than a publicity stunt.”
Uganda is rated Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2012 survey. As journalists working to cover presidential and parliamentary elections in February faced increased harassment and violence at the hands of security forces, the country’s press freedom score declined after several stable years at around 54 points to 57 points in 2012. Photojournalist Julius Odeke was shot while taking pictures of soldiers roughing up a political opposition candidate. Other journalists were beaten and their equipment confiscated while covering protests that followed the election.
Freedom of the Press 2012: Uganda
Freedom in the World 2011: Uganda