Dr Peter Mwesige, the executive director of African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has said attacks on independent media and civic space must stop with immediate effect as the country draws nearer to the 2021 general election.
His remarks came shortly after another attack on journalists covering the 2021election.
Ashraf Kasirye from Ghetto TV, NTV’s Ali Mivule, and Daniel Lutaaya of NBS TV were injured on Sunday as police attempted to disperse supporters of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Ghetto TV is a popular online outlet has become popular for streaming live Kyagulanyi’s campaigns and is one of several platforms that the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) asked Google to take down recently.
According to Mwesige over the last seven weeks, at least 15 journalists have been attacked, injured, and/or arrested as they covered 2021 election-related events.
“The increasingly brazen and arbitrary clampdown on independent journalism and civic space in the run-up to the general elections is a cause of serious concern,” said Mwesige.
A week ago, security agencies arrested a prominent human rights lawyer for allegedly laundering money.
Nicholas Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, was arrested together with three other lawyers.
The three lawyers have since been released on bail but Opiyo remains in custody and he is expected to apply for bail today.
Mwesige said Opiyo has consistently spoken out against human rights violations by government agencies, and offered legal representation to human rights defenders.
“On 29 October, the Uganda National NGO Bureau suspended the operations of the National Election Watch Uganda, a loose coalition of more than 60 NGOs that had come together to monitor the 2021 elections,”he said.
“These infringements on media and civic space do not augur well for peaceful elections and the general stability of the country.”
He demanded that the government upholds and respects the roles and rights of all citizens and stakeholders in this election.
He said the safety of journalists is particularly critical because without free media, citizens won’t access the accurate information they need to make informed decisions and participate in their governance.
“The perpetrators of these attacks on journalists must be brought to book,”Mwesige said.