The recent parading of suspects before the media by the ISO boss, for whatever reasons known to him, is not only uncalled for but barbaric in a civilized society, should be condemned and must stop. Article 20 subsection 2 of the Constitution of Uganda states that “ the rights and freedoms of the individual and groups… shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons.”
Then, why should someone bring fellow citizens and parade them before the glaring camera then declare them suspects on television? Is the media the best place that the police and other security organs can boast of apprehending the “most wanted people” other than before the courts of law? Why is it a habit for the security apparatus never respect the fundamental human rights of any suspects in criminal justice as enshrined in the Penal Code Act, the Constitution and the international Human Rights Conventions to which Uganda is a party? These are the few among the many questions disturbing me.
However, the media and journalists that diligently devote themselves to cover such a humiliating acts also pose questions on our professionalism. As media practitioners, our primary role is to give voice to the voiceless not to the oppressor of rights and freedoms that we ought to protect and advocate in a civilized society.
It is explicit in the constitution that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty before a competent and impartial tribunal while applying the fair trial principles (article 28 of the constitution). The media is not competent enough to accept incompetent soldier to arraign suspect before them to be judged by the masses.
We should be mindful of the impact of exposing such suspects to their family and friends and even to them (suspects). The state is using the media to inflict psychological trauma not to only the suspects but everyone and more so the beloved ones are being tormented most. I wonder how the children of those men are coping up with the situation in their schools.
In so doing the media and journalists have the catalysts or accomplices to gang up with the security to oppress the wanaichi to whom we claim to be their watch dogs without any legal basis.
It would be professional of you when covering the suspects during court proceedings whereby as a journalist, you would be in know of the charges read by the prosecution and if possible talk to the defense lawyer to show your impartiality.
These days the social media has made it simple, unless they can’t pay the social media tax, let the police and other security agencies use their Twitter or Facebook accounts to arraign their suspects. After all, we see them issuing press releases and announcements on the social media, how is that different?