The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed a call by the Ugandan Journalists Association (UJA) for the government to protect media covering court cases against opposition groups and put an end to police harassment of journalists.
“We back this call by the Ugandan Journalists Association for the government to offer more than words to ensure journalists can work safely and freely,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office.
In a meeting with Minister of Information Alhajji Kirunda Kivejinja on 9 March, the UJA Executive Committee called for the end of continued police brutality against journalists who have been harassed while covering court proceedings and demonstrations by the opposition politicians and other groups with divergent views from the government.
“The current harassment of the journalists during the trial of rebel group Peoples Redemption Army (PRA) suspects has made covering it a nightmare for journalists,” said Ahmed Kateregga, UJA President.
In early March, New Vision newspaper journalist Chris Ahimbisibwe was roughed up at Bushenyi High Court and detained by police. In another case New Vision photographer Richard Semakula was roughed up at Kampala High Court and his camera destroyed by police forces.
At the March 9 meeting, UJA Secretary General Stephen Ouma Bwire told Information Minister Kivejinja that if government cannot guarantee safety of journalists at its events then journalists countrywide are going to boycott them.
After the meeting, Minister Kivejinja called on police to stop harassing and intimidating journalists during coverage of events. He said the two groups should instead work together because they are partners in development.
During the meeting, the journalists also presented a petition to the Minister opposing the 1995 Press and Journalist Statute Bill that provides for registration and licensing of journalists by the Statutory Media Council instead of the self-regulatory organisation Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU).
The IFJ calls on the government to transfer this procedure to the IMCU, which should take the responsibility of overseeing the profession.
“We also renew our call for the government to resume broadcasts of private television channel Nation TV, which has been off the air since 2 February due alleged technical failures,” IFJ’s Baglo added.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries