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

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    City could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters

    Turkey Aims New Crackdown at Journalists, Academics, Airline Workers

    Ankara continues targeting people allegedly linked to exiled cleric, who it says led the failed military coup

    Pakistan Ready to Inaugurate Rebuilt Afghan Border Crossing

    Construction of Torkham Gate triggered deadly clashes between Pakistani and Afghan military forces

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora