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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora