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Uganda

Key Developments

» Attacks on the press decline from recent years.

» Police raid and suspend dailies and radio stations for 10 days.

Though attacks against the press diminished compared with recent years, authorities continued to crack down on journalists for critical coverage. Police were accused of being the perpetrators in a third of the assaults on journalists. The government instigated the longest arbitrary suspension of the press in recent years after police raided two dailies, The Monitor and Red Pepper, and silenced them for 10 days in connection with their coverage. Two radio stations at the same premises were also suspended. Police ignored for a week a court order allowing the dailies to resume publishing. In July, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, a newly appointed internal security minister, told the local press he would enforce stricter media regulation policies and said he would be monitoring the formerly suspended publications. Authorities continued to censor journalists, preventing them from covering public functions. In August, Parliament passed the Public Order Management Bill, which criminalizes public meetings without express police permission and is seen by local and international press freedom and civil society organizations as a tool to suppress opposition rallies and subsequent media coverage.



  • 14

    Outlets suspended in 10 years
  • 7

    Days police ignored court order
  • 17

    Assaults on the press
  • 9

    Censorship cases in three years
 

Ugandan authorities have a history of suspending news outlets or specific programs for broadcasts deemed critical of the government.

Police in 2013 raided and shut down four news outlets--two dailies and their sister radio stations--for 10 days.


Timeline of suspensions:

June 2003:

Ugandan authorities briefly shut down the Catholic Church-owned Radio Kyoga Veritas FM in the town of Soroti for airing broadcasts about fighting between government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, according to Radio Kyoga journalists. The almost week-long suspension occurred five days after a former Ugandan minister forbade all radio stations from broadcasting news or talk shows about the rebel attacks.

August 2005:

Authorities suspended independent radio station KFM for more than a week, claiming the station had violated "minimum broadcasting standards" after Andrew Mwenda, a talk show host, allegedly blamed the government for negligence in the July 2005 helicopter crash that killed former South Sudan leader John Garang. The state charged Mwenda with sedition and promoting sectarianism. Mwenda was released on bail after three days and successfully appealed the sedition charges.

February 2006:

The government domestically blocked two websites and a radio station ahead of presidential elections, according to news reports. The radio station KFM was jammed, and its website blocked for three days for releasing early vote results, according to local journalists. The website of the critical Radio Katwe was blocked for more than a week before the elections by the state-run Communications Commission, which claimed the site was publishing "malicious and false information against the ruling party and its presidential candidate," according to news reports. The outlets were allowed to resume broadcasting after the elections.

March 2006:

The state-run Broadcasting Council shut down radio station Choice FM in Gulu for nearly four months for airing reports "likely to cause public insecurity or violence," news editor Sam Lawino told CPJ. The temporary closing stemmed from talk-show participants' criticism of the military and a local ruling party candidate, according to local journalists.

September 2009:

The government-run Broadcasting Council shut down and raided the offices of four radio stations--Central Broadcasting Service (CBS), Radio Sapentia, Radio Two, and Ssubi FM--that had covered protests over government interference in the movements of the king of the Baganda ethnic group, according to news reports. The council ordered all stations to halt political debate programming. Radio Sapentia was allowed to resume after a week, Radio Two after two months, Ssubi FM after four months, and CBS after nearly 14 months, according to CPJ research.

May 2013:

Police raided and shuttered four outlets of the Monitor Media Company in an apparent attempt to find the original copy of a letter written by a former security official that called for an investigation into an alleged plot. The letter had been covered by two independent dailies, The Monitor and Red Pepper. Two sister radio stations, KFM and Dembe FM, were also closed. After the Monitor Media Group obtained a court order to end the police search and resume publishing, police continued to block the outlets' operations for seven days.
 

Ugandan police ignored a May 23 court order requiring them to vacate the premises of the Monitor Media Company. Police had raided the independent media company on May 20 in an apparent attempt to find the original copy of a letter drafted by a former security official. After the Monitor Media Group obtained the court order to end the police search and resume publishing, police continued to block the outlets' operations for seven days.

 

Physical attacks against journalists declined this year, compared with the 41 assaults documented amid the 2011 presidential elections and nationwide strikes. Police were responsible for roughly 25 percent of the assaults against journalists--as opposed to 92 percent in 2012, according to CPJ research.

Assaults over time:
 

Ugandan officials routinely block journalists from covering public functions, CPJ research shows.


Censorship over time:

March 2010:

Police Commander Julius Owino of Eastern Bugiri District prevented Daily Monitor reporter Asuman Musobya from covering a murder case at the Bugiri Court and detained him for six hours without explanation or filing any charges against him, local journalists told CPJ.

July 2010:

A security official prevented Rogers Matovu, reporter for the Catholic Church-based Kingdom FM, from covering the opening session of the African Union Summit in Kampala and detained him for five days without charge or explanation, according to news reports.

May 2011:

Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya blocked journalists from covering the Kampala High Court in an election petition case against him, according to news reports.

October 2011:

President Yoweri Museveni prevented the press from covering an opening ceremony for a ruling party retreat in Kyakwanzi, despite official government invitations being extended to the press, local journalists told CPJ.

January 2012:

Justice Faith Mwonda suspended Red Pepper reporter Tom Kalamula from covering court proceedings in Nakawa Court without explanation, the Ugandan Human Rights Network for Journalists and local journalists reported.

February 2012:

Justice Faith Mwonda blocked four journalists from covering open court proceedings in the High Court of Entebbe, according to news reports.

January 2013:

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga suspended two reporters from the independent weekly The Observer from covering parliamentary proceedings. Kadaga claimed that two stories written by the reporters that involved her were false. The Observer wrote an apology, but challenged the speaker's suspension order in court, claiming the suspension was outside her jurisdiction, according to news reports. The court case had not resumed in late year.

February 2013:

Kampala Mayor Elias Lukwago accused journalists of the state-sponsored daily New Vision of biased reporting and prevented them from covering his press conferences, according to local journalists.

September 2013:

A Kampala Capital City Authority official refused to allow Radio Simba journalist Aisha Nakawooya to enter a public meeting, claiming her media outlet had not been invited to cover the event, according to news reports.



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