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Uganda Gov't Criticized for Treatment of Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to Ugandan President Museveni, saying it is “troubled by government efforts to influence journalists’ coverage of Uganda” leading up to February’s presidential elections.

Alexis Arieff is a spokesperson for the CPJ. From New York, she told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua why CPJ is concerned about media accreditation.

“Well, we’re concerned that the Ugandan government appears to be politicizing the process of accreditation for foreign correspondents who enter and reside in Uganda. This is particularly of concern because Uganda has presidential elections scheduled for next month. And this comes amid other apparent attempts to intimidate journalists into not criticizing the government,” she says.

Asked how the government allegedly intimidates journalists, Arieff says, “In several instances Ugandan officials have suggested that the accreditation of foreign reporters could be linked to an official evaluation of their work. So, for example, a BBC correspondent named Will Ross, who’s been in the country for years and who’s very well known and well respected, and who’s never had trouble gaining accreditation or renewing his accreditation in the past, was told before he was able to renew his accreditation most recently that further renewal would depend on whether authorities deemed his reports ‘fair and balanced.’ And then when he actually went to renew his accreditation he was given only four months to remain in the country rather than twelve.”

She says accreditation decisions are now made by a new agency called the Media Center, which has military members.

The letter to President Museveni says the Universal declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”