For more than once, journalists have been a target and subjection to brutality, detention and harassment in almost all the regimes in Uganda whose only crime is to practice their profession. Security organs have played it well to spear head this injustices.
Despite the constitutional provision which grants journalists the right to express themselves freely, the state has played a significant role in suppressing their right and making their professional regrettable.
Laws like the Anti-Terrorism act 2002, Anti-pornography act 2014, Press and journalism act 1995, Public order Management act 2013 among other laws have been put in place to demean the profession of its right to free expression.
A series of illegal detention and torture against journalists have continued to rain the country, journalists continue to suffer yet nothing has been done apart from mere apology statements from security organs which follows no action.
President Museveni promised fundamental change in media freedom and expression when he came to power since it was one of the reason for his resistance to then Obote’s regime, it has however with time become ironical that he has done exactly the opposite of what he said. There have always been cracks between state and the fourth estate which has been characterized by harassment of journalists and closure of media houses. In Uganda today, covering an event related to anti government protests is like crime, cases of brutality against journalists in such events are now becoming a culture, no anti government protest has been covered and remained safe for a journalists.
Events like freebobiwine demos have seen journalists like Ronald Galiwango and Juma Kirya of NTV, Julius Muhumuza of Dream TV, Alfred Ochwolof the Observer and James Akena, a photojournalist with the Reuters News Agency assaulted and succumbed to body injuries as a result of the beating by the police and the army. This is not the only incident where journalists have suffered brutality but whenever they cover unfolding real life events. Another instance happened in Arua when group of journalists were arrested and assaulted by the Special Forces Command SFC in Arua while covering by-elections, journalists Herbert ZZiwa and Ronald Muwanga were assaulted, detained and later charged with crimes of inciting violence and malicious damage to property.
Security organs remain the main tormentors of journalist in Uganda as the state continue to remain silent about this. The 2017 press freedom index put the police at the forefront of tormenting journalists for nine consecutive years. Arrests and detention of journalists topped the year with 45 cases followed by assault with 27 cases.
But when is all this going to end?, Organizations which are supposed to protect journalists have proved to be toothless backing dogs, the best they can do is issue a statement condemning this acts and that’s the end, Human Rights for Journalists Uganda among other humanitarian organizations should rather put pressure on the governments to stop mistreatment of journalists. They should work hand in hand with outside organization like Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, and United Nations Human Rights Commission among other organization and appeal to them to run a global campaign about the ongoing injustices against journalists in Uganda.
The state should also come out to clearly condemn hash treatment against journalists and take hash decisions against tormentors.
The body should also carry out campaigns against the oppressors, take a legal trend and call upon journalists and media houses to boycott the covering of the oppressor’s events.
Only then shall we have a free and fair society where journalism as a profession will be respected.