The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has condemned the continuing attacks on, arrests and detention of Ugandan journalists by security officers.
ACME is a Kampala-based non-profit organisation committed to supporting African journalists seek and achieve professional excellence.
In a terse statement released on Monday, the organisation pointed out the rising incidences of mistreatment of journalists, particularly those covering political events.
“During the political violence in Arua last week, NTV journalists Herbert Zziwa and Ronald Muwanga were pounced on and beaten by security officers as they reported live following the killing by shooting of Mr Yasin Kawuma, the driver of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. They were later charged with the dubious offence of incitement to violence and malicious damage to property. It was also reported that NBS TV’s John Kibaliza was forcibly arrested and detained in an unknown place. Today, a week later, James Akena, a photographer working for the foreign news agency Reuters was beaten by soldiers, arrested and detained for several hours as he covered the #FreeBobiWine political protests in Kampala. His equipment was confiscated,” read part of the statement.
The organisation said it has also learnt that some journalists have been forced to delete footage from their cameras and phones of soldiers responding to or beating protesters and that some media houses have also been forced not to show images of the political violence unraveling in different parts of the country.
“Clearly, the security forces that have responded to protesters in the last week want to carry out their wanton abuse of the rights of Ugandans in darkness,” said Dr Peter Mwesige, ACME’s executive director.
ACME called upon the government to rein in members of the armed forces who are now presiding over this frightening erosion of press freedom and free expression in Uganda.
“As we have said before, press freedom and freedom of expression are not just about the rights of journalists and the media to receive and disseminate information. They are equally importantly about the right of the public to receive and impart information without which, as our Supreme Court has continued to remind us, citizens can’t meaningfully participate in their own governance,” the statement stated.