Friday, July 25, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, armed policeman assaults a journalist, as another survives a gun shot

Hoima, 24th/July/2014; On 23/July/2014 an armed policeman in Hoima assaulted Geoffrey Tumwesigye a journalist working for Bunyoro television and Liberty radio, accusing him of recording a scuffle between policemen and angry butcher men at Hoima Central market in Western Uganda, while another journalist Vincent Arinaitwe of Liberty FM radio, claimed being shot at as he was covering the same incident, but survived narrowly.
The journalists told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the police officers were engaged in a scuffle with the local butcher men who were protesting against the newly introduced levies and regulations by the Hoima Municipal Council authorities 

“while I was recording the scuffle, an armed policeman emerged from behind slapped my left upper jaw when I turned to see him, he slapped me again and said, who called you here, what are you doing, why are you recording us, stop while trying to grab my camera. When I declined surrendering it, I was slapped again however I managed to escape.” Tumwesigye told HRNJ-Uganda

Amidst the chaos, Arinaitwe claims he was shot at as he crossed over to the police side, “I narrowly escaped a gun shot fired at me which instead hit the ground causing dust to cover my shoes.  I managed to get to the police station although I remained gripped in shock for about three hours.” 

The Officer in charge of Hoima Police Station, Magombe Ismail could not give details on the case. However, Tumwesigye opened up an assault case against the implicated police officer. He has since presented two witnesses to support his case.

Meanwhile, another Masaka-based journalist, Margaret Kayondo, a news correspondent for Radio Simba in the South Buganda Sub region, survived a mob as she covered a court session for the trial of Ponsiano Rwakataka a rally driver facing charges of illegal fish dealing.  Kayondo and other journalists in the area were accused of “exaggerating Rwakataka’s case”. The bitter mob charged at Kayondo but was saved by the local police at court and other prison warders. Rwakataka is facing charges of illegal fish dealing among others and is being remanded at kalisizi prison till 25th July however his fans have since warned journalists against continued reporting of Rwakataka’s trial.

 “HRNJ-Uganda commends the police and prison officers who saved the journalist from an angry mob. However, measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of journalists as they do their work.  The police in Hoima should also take action against the officers implicated in assaulting Tumwesigye while on duty.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Student pins former teacher for assaulting a journalist.

Kampala, 23rd July 2014;  A former student of Old Kampala Senior Secondary School, Vanessa Nimukunda has pinned her former teacher, Ataremwa Justus in an assault case of a Vision Group Journalist, Mathias Ssebwato Kavubu.

During her examination, Nimukunda told the Makerere-based Law Development Centre Court, presided over by Grade One Magistrate Shwanda  Nkore, that on 17th October 2012, she saw Ataremwa physically assaulting the journalist, “….there after Mr. Ataremwa held the journalist by the shirt, kicked and slapped him on the cheeks until he almost fell down”, said Nimukunda  in her testimony.

She said this happened after Ataremwa Justus, the examinations master at the school had denied her permission to do her Uganda Certificate of Education examinations under unclear circumstances, which prompted her to call her elder sister, Samantha Nimukunda who arrived at the School at about 9:00 am and met the School administration. In the process, the sisters called Bukedde TV to cover the story about the conduct of the school administration, which resulted in Sebwato coming to the school at about 11:00 am, with a video camera to cover the news.

She told court that Sebwato proceeded to the school administration and introduced himself before he started to interview her father, Patrick Bikako.  Just as Sebwato was about to interview the student, the Deputy Headmaster, Mr. Serwadda interjected him and asked for the journalist’s identity card, was later joined by Ataremwa Justus, who together with others assaulted the helpless journalist.

Prosecution closed its case today having produced five witnesses. The defence is expected to file its final submissions on 30th July 2014 and thereafter, prosecution will reply by 6th August 2014.

Court is expected to give its ruling as to whether there is a case to answer or not on 13th August 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, district chairperson arrests two Journalists, detained and charged with trespass.

Kiryandongo, 21st/July/2014; two Vision Group journalists were arrested while on duty by the district chairperson for Kiryandongo, Ben Moro, on 20th/July/2014. They were detained at police before they were charged with criminal trespass and released on bond the following day. He accused them of coming to his district without his prior permission.

Goeffrey Mutegeki and Muhammed Ssendegeya -both Vision Group correspondents in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts in Mid-Western Uganda, were arrested at Alero village by Moro when he intercepted them on their way from interviewing the locals about a borehole which they claim he diverted to personal use yet it was meant to serve the community. 

The journalists told Human Rights Network for journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that they were on their way to interview Moro about the allegations labeled against him. “He intercepted us, ordered us into his car which had his wife, son and two local council leaders inside, then drove us to Diima police post where we were detained for a night. He returned the following day and drove us to Kiryndongo police station from where we were charged with criminal trespass and released on bond. We declined to surrender our cameras and cellphones to them.”

“He has a borehole in his home but we don’t know if it’s a personal property, that’s what we wanted to ask from him. We are going to pursue the story; we can’t give up on it just like that.” Mutegeki told HRNJ-Uganda. 

Moro accused the journalists of acting unprofessionally by coming to his district without informing the authorities of their presence, and also accused them of being used by his political opponent, one Kassim Owori, who he threatened to drag to court. “Me I have no case against them as long as they become my witnesses in a case against my brother-in-law, Kassim Owori, if they don’t they will be bundled together as trespassers.” He told HRNJ-Uganda

However the Kiryandongo District Police Commander, Patrick Byaruhanga, opposed the detention of the journalists, “There was no need to detain them. How can you arrest and charge journalists with trespass for doing their work, yet they are well-known to us and they always cover our news? The policemen were intimidated and heeded to the orders of the chairman to detain the journalists.

“HRNJ-Uganda condemns the actions of the district chairperson. This amounts to abuse of office and total violation of the fundamental media freedoms as provided for under Article 19. The police should drop these tramped up charges against the journalists. Politicians must desist from using their offices to shield themselves from public scrutiny. We commend the intervention of the Daily Monitor scribe, Francis Mugerwa and DPC Byaruhanga for having the journalists released” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala

Friday, July 18, 2014

HRNJ-U Statement: Computer Misuse Act 2011

                                                                                                                                     10th July 2014
HRNJ-U Statement: Computer Misuse Act 2011

The Computer Misuse Act, 2011 is a major threat to digital freedoms and other fundamental human rights in Uganda. According to an analysis report produced by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), the law gags freedom of Information, Expression, Privacy and it contains a number of unnecessary vague sections that can be used to infringe freedoms of Assembly, Association and other fundamental human rights.  This coincides with the new global trend adopted by states to muzzle citizens in their quest to demand for free expression and other internet freedoms as they seek to cause positive change in their societies. 

The analysis report funded by the Web We Want, points out such Sections like 5, 12 and 18, which unduly limit access to information in a broad manner and does not conform to the standards set out within the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The limitations set out in the Act do not serve any pressing social need; they are overly broad, unjustifiable and irrelevant.  Others include Sections 9, 10 and 11 which pose a serious threat to the right to privacy. Unlimited powers are granted to an ‘investigative officer’, not defined by law, to access data stored or processed by a computer for purposes of criminal investigations or prosecution of an offence.

The vague and imprecise provisions that can be interpreted to the detriment of persons include among others sections 3, 21(2), 24, 25 and 28(5)
HRNJ-U is concerned by the revelations of the analysis. Such clauses should be repealed in order to safe guard the fundamental media rights and freedoms of express and information HRNJ-U calls on all stakeholders to engage in a process which will lead to elimination of such restrictive sections in the Computer Misuse Act, 2011. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014


                                                                                                                                           10th July 2014
 Press Statement: For Immediate Release
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-U) has persistently raised concerns over the abuse of journalists while on duty by both the State and non-state operatives. We have taken up these matters with those concerned especially in police, army, prisons, courts of law and other agencies but without success. In the past three years, HRNJ-Uganda has lodged over a dozen complaints with the Police Standards Unit against errant police officers that harass media practitioners, but to date no appropriate remedial actions are taken against these errant officers.  HRNJ-U has further engaged the Uganda Human Rights Commission to help curb this vice; unfortunately UHRC has not yet taken action on this front.
It is against this background therefore, that HRNJ-Uganda in collaboration with the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) and Eastern Africa Media Institute Uganda Chapter (EAMI-U) –also otherwise known as the partnership for a free press and independent media, have resolved to drag to court the Wandegeya District Police Commander (DPC), Mr Tusingwire Ceaser, as the first culprit for harassing and mistreating a journalist, Mr. Mulindwa Mukasa of the Associated Press and Board Chairman of HRNJ-Uganda.
On May 20th 2014, Mulindwa Mukasa, with support from the  partners for a free press and independent media sued Tusingwire Ceaser at the High Court of Uganda for violating Mulindwa’s constitutional rights, while Tusingwire was purporting to be executing his police duties of law enforcement.   
Through his lawyers from the Centre for Legal Aid, Mulindwa argues that on November 24th, 2013 (When a Top Radio journalist, Kamagu was arrested), Tusingwire infringed or threatened his rights as enshrined in Articles  23(1), 24, 26(2), 27, 29(1)(a), and (2)(a),  40(2), and 44(a) of the Uganda Constitution when he ordered his officers to slap, unlawfully search, assault and confiscate his gadget he used to take a photo of police officers manhandling another journalist, William Ntege aka Kyumakyayesu at Wandegeya police station.
Mulindwa further argues that he was arbitrarily, unreasonably and unlawfully disrupted, restricted, arrested and his material deleted from his gadget by police officers acting on the orders of Tusingwire.
In his prayers, Mulindwa wants the Court to dismiss Mr. Tusiingwire Ceaser from the Uganda Police Force, or declare him unfit to remain in Uganda Police Force, or to serve the Government of Uganda in any official capacity specified under the Leadership Code Act, 2002. In the alternative, Mulindwa wants the court to direct the relevant agencies of Government to take swift and severe disciplinary action against him.
This case seeks to reverse the rising tide of intolerance against the media and protect journalists against mistreatment and violations of their rights while on duty by law enforcement officers and other public officials. This serves to send a strong message that any person, whether in the security agency or public office that arbitrarily interferes with the work of journalists will be targeted individually and held accountable.
Given the deteriorating media working environment in Uganda, HRNJ-Uganda, CEPIL and EAMI-U have undertaken to offer joint support to journalists whose rights have been infringed upon or threatened by the public and law enforcements officers like police, soldiers, security guards and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) among others by holding the perpatrators individually liable for their unprofessional conduct. This form of support will be extended to all media houses that are arbitrarily interfered with by public officials and institutions.
We call upon all journalists and media houses that have been subjected to abuse by public officials acting outside their lawful mandate to come forward with their complaints so that the culprits are pursued and held responsible for their professional misconduct and unlawful acts.
In the same vein, HRNJ-Uganda, with its two partners has filed a petition in the Constitutional court seeking the nullification of the Press and Journalists Act of 2000 because it is unconstitutional and curtails press freedom guaranteed in the Constitution of Uganda.
Together in pursuit of Freedom of the media and speech in Uganda
National Coordinator- HRNJ-Uganda