News / Africa

Ugandan Journalists Face Violence and Intimidation

Angelo Izama, one of Uganda's leading radio and print journalists, was the first person to test his country's fledgling Freedom of Information law after it passed in 2007 (File Photo).Angelo Izama, one of Uganda's leading radio and print journalists, was the first person to test his country's fledgling Freedom of Information law after it passed in 2007 (File Photo).
x
Angelo Izama, one of Uganda's leading radio and print journalists, was the first person to test his country's fledgling Freedom of Information law after it passed in 2007 (File Photo).
Angelo Izama, one of Uganda's leading radio and print journalists, was the first person to test his country's fledgling Freedom of Information law after it passed in 2007 (File Photo).
KAMPALA, Uganda - Harassment of journalists is on the rise in this East African nation, and freedom of speech is under threat, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.  

When Ugandan photojournalist Isaac Kasamani covered an opposition rally last January, he expected it to be a straightforward assignment.  First there were speeches.  Then Kasamani, who works for a local newspaper in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, followed Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye as he drove through the streets.

But suddenly, says Kasamani, things took a turn for the worse.

“After the rally, chaos erupted - police against Besigye’s supporters, throwing of the stones, tear gas.  As a journalist, I followed up.  I wanted to know what was happening.  Somebody from inside the van threw a tear gas canister.  So as I was moving towards the front part of both cars to take a picture, somebody opened the passengers’ vehicle, aimed a gun at me, [and] shot at me," he said.

Kasamani left the rally unscathed.  But he says the men who shot at him were plainclothes police officers.  For him and his colleagues, he says, journalism is becoming an increasingly risky profession. “They beat them.  Some are being arrested.  A colleague I work with at the Daily Monitor, he was recently arrested.  It is getting much worse now," he said.

Amnesty International agrees.  According to a report released by the human-rights watchdog last month, attacks on Ugandan journalists are on the rise.  Amnesty’s Michelle Kagari says this is part of a wider trend, as the Ugandan government cracks down on its critics across the country.

“Our findings are that the space for freedom of expression and association has shrunk and it continues to shrink.  Of course, when that space shrinks, the people who tend to feel it the most initially are opposition politicians and journalists.  There has been less and less space to question government practice, question government policy and criticize what government is doing on specific issues," she said.

Police spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi denies that abuse of journalists is widespread, and points a finger at the journalists themselves for demanding too much access and freedom.

“There have been a few instances where there have been clashes between a few individual journalists and police, especially during operations.  But that is not an institutional policy.  We have also encountered some problems that some of our journalists are actually unprofessional.  They want to have limitless powers and freedom in any place at any time, which, practically, is not possible," he said.

Kagari says Amnesty has documented about 30 cases of journalists who have been arrested for doing their jobs, and now face criminal charges.  She adds media censorship comes in more insidious forms as well.

She describes one case of a radio station in rural Uganda, on which local residents were asked what they thought about the government’s oil policy.

“It was a community show where people would call in and give their views, and this was closed down.  We were told by the editors that they got a call from the LC (local council) chairman and told, ‘You are inciting people, and if you want your license, if you know what is good for you, you will stop this.’  And that seems to be the pattern.  This is happening quite a bit," she said.

According to Kagari, Ugandan journalists are not alone.  She says throughout Africa nervous leaders have been watching the uprisings in the Arab world with trepidation.  Often, their reaction has been to stifle freedom of expression. “That has been the general response of African leaders; they do not want any space whatsoever to question their authority, question their governance, because they are afraid that the same thing that happened in North Africa would happen here," she said.

After the shooting incident during the rally, Isaac Kasamani lodged an official complaint with the Ugandan government.  But he says the investigation they conducted was a sham. “They sent in a private Irish investigator, who was hired by the government to do the investigations.  In his report, he changed everything I had told him, he changed every statement I had given him, and in the end he said that there was no shooting," he said.

Kagari is concerned that in repressing the media and opposition, African leaders have failed to learn an important lesson from the so-called Arab Spring: that if you do not allow your people to speak out peacefully, they will find other, more violent ways to express themselves.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs