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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid