The Uganda Police Force has been ranked number one among the top violators of journalists’ rights for a tenth year in a row according to a report by the Human Rights Network for Journalists.
The report titled , “Impunity: A cry for media freedom” released on Tuesday indicated that of the 162 cases of violations and abuses of journalists’ rights in 2018, police accounted for 87 violations, representing 53% of all the documented cases in 2018.
“The Police, is for the tenth year running, the leading offender of media rights. Out of the 163 cases the police was responsible for 87 violations representing 53% of all documented cases in 2018. The percentage of women journalists who suffered abuses and violations stands at 19, that is 12% for the third year running, indicating that women have not backed off frontline activities despite the physical attacks targeted at them,” the report reads in part.
In February 2018, journalists covering the trial of former Buyende DPC, Muhammad Kirumira were roughed up by police officers at the police headquarters in Naguru.
In April 2018, police was at it again when its counter terrorism officers beat, kicked and pushed journalists who had gone to cover Kirumira’s judgment.
In one incident, Galaxy FM’s Amina Nalule who was then pregnant was pushed to the ground by the police officers and tried to stop fellow journalists from helping her up.
According to the press freedom index report, female journalists too were not spared by police noting that three quarters of women journalists suffered violations at the hands of state agents.
Army not spared
The report also ranked the army as the second biggest violators of journalists’ rights in the year 2018.
The report pointed out the assault on journalists in Arua,on the eve of the municipality by-elections noting that Special Forces Command (SFC), which is part of the UPDF was involved in violating journalists’ rights.
The report also mentions the assault by soldiers on several journalists including Jimmy Akena during free Bobi Wine protests in Kampala.
According to the report, reporters, especially from the TV stations suffered most especially during politically tense situations such as during demonstrations.
“Out of 163 documented cases, a total of 69 (42%) TV journalists were affected followed by 41 (25%) for print media and 40 (25%) for radio (38 journalists and two radio stations). Online journalists affected were 13 representing 8%,”the report noted.
The report indicated that only cases reported to the Human Rights Network for Journalists for further investigations were considered.
The report has put to task the management of to undertake transparent and public disciplinary proceedings against police officers involved in the violation of freedoms and rights of journalists.
“In a situation where the Police authorities claim to have taken disciplinary action against the errant officers, the details of such disciplinary action should be shared with the public via the media. The said police officers should be held personally liable,” the report urged.
The report also urged the police leadership to train its forces to ensure safety of journalists while on duty.
The army leadership too, has been urged to ensure soldiers deployed to support police operations conduct themselves in ways that respect journalists’ rights.