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Ugandan Government's Crackdown Targets Foreign Reporters

A top Ugandan official says his government has authorized the Media Center to investigate all foreign journalists entering the country. The Media Center recently took over the task of accrediting foreign journalists from another agency – the Media Council. The state minister for information, James Buturo, says the decision was made because foreign journalists have become what he called “a security concern." The crackdown comes in advance of the country's national presidential election, set for next month.

Blake Lambert is a Canadian-born journalist who reports for the British weekly magazine, the Economist. He told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje he is not sure what exactly triggered the government’s crackdown. But he points to what he sees as possible contributing factors: “President Museveni’s decision to amend the constitution and run for a third term of office, the International Court of Justice’s decision on the Congo, and next month’s presidential elections.” Lambert says under the circumstances, the government felt obliged to act “to hold the country together.”

The Canadian journalist says the government crackdown hasn’t affected the carrying out of his daily duties. But he says he’s still awaiting renewal of his accreditation, which he applied for on January 3rd. Lambert says he doubts the latest government action will expand to jamming international broadcasters like the VOA and the BBC. He says the two organizations enjoy a huge and loyal listenership, and that it would not be in the government’s interest to jam their broadcasts.