Monday, November 24, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert; Journalists elect new leadership.


Kampala, 24th/November/2014; journalists under their umbrella body, the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) have elected new leaders of the Executive Board at an Annual General Meeting, held at Pope Paul IV Memorial Hotel in Kampala on November 22, 2014.
A Vision Group journalist, Julius Esegu who was a member of the previous Board, was elected Chairman of a 9-man team for the next 3 years, replacing Mulindwa Mukasa who did not contest for a 2nd term. Daily Monitor’s Mayamba Johnson was unanimously elected as vice Chairperson replacing K-FM’s News Editor and anchor, Hadijah Mwanje.
The Vision Group’ Saul Wokulira Wambuzi and Francis Tumwekwasize Bahene retained their port folios as Secretary and treasurer respectively, Gladys Kigozi is the Deputy Treasurer replacing Kiggundu Joseph. Other Board Members include Enid Ninsiima, Luke Kagiri, Ronald Kalumba and Tom Kalumula.
The out-going were members awarded certificates in recognition of their commendable contribution to the defence and promotion of media rights and journalists’ freedoms. Others awarded include, the former National Coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala for his founding role, veteran journalist Haruna Kanaabi and the National Coordinator Robert Ssempala for steering the Organisation.
In his maiden speech, Esegu reiterated his commitment to strengthening the Organisation in order to defend and promote media freedoms and rights. The outgoing Chairperson, Mulindwa commended members of his Board and the technical team at the Secretariat for the achievements within his term in office. The National Coordinator, Ssempala hailed the outgoing Board for giving strategic guidance and leadership to the Organisation.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:news@hrnjuganda.org/humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk/Website:www.hrnjuganda.org;BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, District Police Commander testifies against a journalist


Kampala, 12th November 2014; Hearing of a case in which a journalist, Mulindwa Mukasa is accused of obstructing Julius Ceaser Tusingwire the District Police Commander, Wandegeya Police station while on duty commenced today at the Law Development Centre Court in Kampala before Grade 1 Magistrate Jolly Nkore Shwanda.
Testifying against Mulindwa, Tusingwire said while in his office on 26th November 2013 at around 3:00 pm he heard commotion at the police counter which forced him to come and see what was happening. “When I moved out of my office, I found three people fighting police officers at the counter. At that time they were taking Kamagu, a journalist we had arrested. They were saying a lot of words and wanted to exceed the counter to go the sensitive areas like the armory,” Tusingwiire said adding that he ordered for the arrest of these people and two of them disappeared. He said Mulindwa remained defiant and “continued shouting attempting to grab Kamagu from the police officers and I ordered for his arrest.”
When asked by HRNJ-Uganda’s legal officer Catherine Anite, whether Mulindwa obstructed him, Tusingwire said Mulindwa did not obstruct him. He said; I was obstructed because I am the commander and my obstruction does not have to be physical.”
The case was adjourned to 27th November 2014 for more prosecution witnesses. Tusingwiire is the principal prosecution witness.
Prosecution led by Aisha Batala Naluzze alleges that Mulindwa who is also the HRNJ-U Board Chairperson on 26th November 2013, willfully obstructed the DPC Wandegeya Police Station from carrying out his lawful duties. Mulindwa and other journalists had gone to Police to find out the reasons that had led to arrest and detention of a fellow journalist Richard Kasule alias Kamagu a radio presenter at Top Radio.

This is a trumped up charge against Mulindwa. The court should expeditiously hear it so that justice is done,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National coordinator Robert Ssempala. 
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)

Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail:news@hrnjuganda.org/humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk/Website:www.hrnjuganda.org;BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com
 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, commercial cyclist arrested over brutal assault of journalist


Kampala, 30th/October/2014: Police in Kampala arrested a commercial cyclist a.k.a bodaboda on charges of assaulting a Vision Group journalist Ismail Ddamba. He is being detained at Kitebi police station in Rubaga division, Kampala district.
The suspect identified as Buyondo Huzair aged 35 years, a resident of Sserwadda zone in Kabowa, Rubaga division was arrested on the 28th October 2014 at about 7:00pm local time at Kibage bodaboda stage, while four others are still at large.
The officer in charge of the station, Kabojja Hamid confirmed the arrest and promised to ensure that those at large are arrested too, “We will arrest four more prime suspects and see what we can do.” Kabojja told HRNJ-Uganda.
Ddamba was on 12th/April/2014 attacked by a mob of angry boda-boda cyclists while he covered them demanding for the release of their colleague who had been detained by the cyclists’ leaders for allegedly failing to pay operational fees at Kabowa in Kampala. The journalist was intentionally attacked by the cyclists who accused him of being a police spy. Police fired bullets in the air to rescue him.
These suspects have eluded arrest for such a long time, so we commend the police for arresting one of them; it is a step towards attaining justice. Since this matter has dragged, we implore the police to expeditiously apprehend the remaining suspects so that they can be prosecuted as well.” Said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala

Monday, October 20, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert; Chief Magistrate ordered to allow journalists in Court


Kampala, 20th/October/2014; The High Court of Uganda at Kampala has ordered the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate, Lilian Buchyana to allow journalists and the public to report and attend the trial of Ronald Poteri who is accused of leaking secret audio recordings between the Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen Kale Kayihura and some ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party youths.

Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe, said that the trial Magistrate acted unreasonably and unfairly in the process of making her ruling, adding that she committed an illegality, was irrational and her decision is clothed in procedural impropriety.

On 25th June 2014, the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Lillian Buchyana ordered for an in-camera trial upon an application made by the prosecution led by Anguzu Lino to exclude journalists and the public from attending the trial of Poteri citing national security. Journalists, through their umbrella body, Uganda Court Reporters’ Association (UCRA) challenged the Magistrate’s order through their lawyers Catherine Anite of HRNJ-Uganda, Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde of Centre for Legal Aid, and Kibirango Peter who argued that Buchyana’s decision was illegal, irrational and improper. They further argued that Poteri’s trial was a case of public interest and that the prosecution had failed to adduce evidence to show how a public trial would jeopardize national security.

“I hereby quash the ruling/decision of the Learned Trial Magistrate of 25 June 2014, ordering in-camera proceedings in Criminal Case No. 303 of 2014 against Poteri Ronald”, read Mugambe’s Judgment in part adding that “any proceedings carried out under this ruling or order are also accordingly quashed”.
She noted that by virtue of Article 41 and 43, the trial magistrate was supposed to evaluate whether the request sought by the State was sufficient in a free and democratic society. “Moreover by giving such a blanket cover of in-camera proceedings for the entire trial, the Trial Magistrate sucked in the Defence case proceedings. Such in-camera proceedings for the Defence case should have been only at the request of the Defence if they felt it necessary.
This is a landmark decision for the media in Uganda. As the eyes and ears for the public, journalists require unfettered access to courts of law so as to report on the process of dispensing justice. This is only possible if they are present in court. Closed justice is untenable in a democratic society unless exceptional circumstances are proved”, Said Robert Ssempala, the National Coordinator HRNJ
 
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Plot 18, Block 12 Stensera Road Kayanja Triangle Zone
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala. Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail: news@hrnjuganda.org / humanrajournalists@yahoo.co.uk / Website: www.hrnjuganda.org; BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Criminal defamation must be outlawed in Uganda-PRESS STATEMENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                                                                                             17th October 2014
Press statement: For immediate release
Criminal defamation must be outlawed in Uganda”
Human Rights Network for Journalist-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is deeply saddened by the sentencing of a Central Broadcasting Services (CBS) radio journalist Ronald Ssembuusi on this 17th day of October, 2014 by Kalangala Magistrate’s Court. Ssembuusi has been ordered to pay a fine of one million shillings (UGX500, 000- to court and UGX500,000- to the complainant) within one month from today or serve a jail term of one year. This is after the Grade 1 Magistrate; Kenneth Gimugu convicted Ssembuusi of criminal defamation on October 3rd 2014 after two years of trial. The sentence comes just a day after Ssembuusi was discharged from Mengo hospital where he was admitted on 10th October –the very day he collapsed outside of the HRNJ-Uganda offices in Kampala due to his ailing health situation.
On 03rd December 2012, Sembuusi was charged with criminal defamation contrary to section 179 and 180(1) of the Penal Code Act for reporting a story on CBS radio on 17th November 2011 to the effect that the former Kalangala LC 5 chairman Daniel Kikola was being investigated in connection with the disappearance of solar panels donated to Kalangala district by the African Development Bank to pump clean water in the area.
This conviction and sentencing has hampered Ssembuusi, at only 25 years, in early stages of his career with a criminal record that may preclude him from practicing his journalism profession without fear; and is likely to shun critical reporting. He is humiliated, his image has been polluted a criminal and his dignity eroded because he raised a news story of public concern on the mismanagement and misappropriation of public resources as well as the conduct of leaders of Kalangala district. HRNJ-Uganda is determined to assist Ssembuusi to overcome this shame by appealing against this conviction and the sentence. We have very fertile grounds for appeal, and we believe that the High Court will overturn this judgment.
HRNJ-Uganda is disturbed that criminal defamation remains on our law books and continues to be used to silence critical reporting. It remains a huge obstacle to media freedom as enshrined in our Constitution; it inhibits the media’s role as watchdog for the society.
Criminal defamation has received wide resentment around the world; unfortunately for Uganda’s case, a panel of five Constitutional Court justices led by Justice Stephen Kavuma upheld that the offence is “…a safeguard against the infringement of a person’s reputation.”
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in November 2010 passed a resolution stating that: “criminal defamation laws constitute a serious interference with freedom of expression and impedes on [sic] the role of the media as a watchdog, preventing journalists and media practitioners to practice [sic] their profession without fear and in good faith;” The Commission called upon State parties to repeal criminal defamation laws because they impede on freedom of speech.

The AU Special Rapoteur on Freedom Expression and Access to Information, Pansy Tlakula has noted that: “criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people rather protecting the right to reputation.” The Pan African Parliament has called upon African leaders to sign onto the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the repeal of criminal defamation laws across Africa. In April 2014, the constitutional court of Zimbabwe nullified criminal defamation stating that: “the offence of criminal defamation constitutes a disproportionate instrument for achieving the intended objective of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons. In short, it is not necessary to criminalize defamatory statements.”
In 2009, the United Kingdom abolished criminal defamation entirely from their legal system. We therefore want the following;
  1. In light of the above, HRNJ-Uganda has decided to make all efforts to have this particular law expunged from Uganda’s law books.
  2. We call upon the Ugandan Parliament to repeal this law of criminal defamation because it’s a claw back to the freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution and other regional and international treaties to which Uganda is a party.
  3. We also call upon the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to commission investigations into the disappearance of solar panels in Kalangala district for four consecutive times and bring the culprits to book. We should remember that on June 11th 2010, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment wrote to the Clerk, Kalangala Town Council, alluding to lack of effective management oversight and theft of solar panels in the district.
In a democratic society accountability is an essential tool in assessing rule of law. Ugandans have a collective responsibility to hold their leaders accountable. An explanation from a public official is the least expected, however if a leader responds to public inquiries, and legitimate concerns by instituting criminal prosecution, it diminishes the rule of law and undermines democracy. The time has come for this country to do away with criminal defamation, which public officials have resorted to as a sword to persecute, silence and ban accountability demands from citizens.
Today, HRNJ-Uganda announces its resolve to fight the law of criminal defamation and calls on all stakeholders to join in this fight.
Lets unite in defence of media freedom and journalist’s rights


ROBERT SSEMPALA,
NATIONAL COORDINATOR.