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.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist covering epidemic outbreak assaulted by health ministry officials


Mityana, 14th/October/2014; a Vision Group journalist, Luke Kagiri, was on 11th October, assaulted by two men claiming to be Ministry of Health security officers as he covered a story of a man who is suspected to have died from Marburg. His camera was destroyed in the process by one of the men, Nkogyo Joseph who was traveling in a ministry of health vehicle. Another journalist, Enock Matovu of the Nation Media Group’s NTV used the rear gate of the hospital to escape the attackers.
Kagiri, a Board member of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview that he was attacked by two men who were traveling in a Ministry of Health vehicle Registration number UG 3803/M as he approached the medical workers at Mityana Hospital to find out the cause of death of the unidentified man, “He warned me against taking any coverage, lest he breaks my video camera. He immediately stepped forward and slapped me on the left cheek, he kicked me and I fell down. When I got up, I just walked out of the hospital, where he together with his accomplice pursued me further. The other guy got hold of me, pushed me on the ground and started beating me as Nkogyo repeatedly hit my camera on the ground; he destroyed it beyond repair. The duo fled the scene upon arrival of commercial cyclists who came to my rescue,” Kagiri narrated.
Kagiri said that the cyclists chased after the vehicle in which the duo was traveling which forced them to branch off to Mityana police post. Surprisingly, Nkogyo further assaulted Kagiri by slapping him four times in the presence of the police. They later deposited the destroyed camera at the police. “I used the opportunity to open up a case of ‘assault and malicious damage to property’. The two were immediately released on bond.
The Ministry of Health could not own or disown the said attackers, “I have no details of those persons, I have just heard about the said attack of the journalist in rumors, but that’s something we can investigate. Am waiting for the journalist to call me,” The Ministry spokesperson, Rukia told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. The ministry has however ruled out any Marburg outbreak in the country.
The area police spokesperson, Phillip Mukasa declined to comment on the status of the investigations into this matter, “ Am not aware of this matter, no one has informed me about it since I was away in another district, but let me follow it up.” He told HRNJ-Uganda
The police should expedite investigations into this matter and bring the perpetrators to book. It’s not clear why the duo were blocking any coverage of the matter if indeed they were from the health ministry. The ministry should come clean on Nkogyo and his accomplice who took the law in their hands. HRNJ-Uganda will ensure that justice is delivered in this matter,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

HRNJ-Uganda alert, journalist covering epidemic outbreak assaulted by health ministry officials


Mityana, 14th/October/2014; a Vision Group journalist, Luke Kagiri, was on 11th October, assaulted by two men claiming to be Ministry of Health security officers as he covered a story of a man who is suspected to have died from Marburg. His camera was destroyed in the process by one of the men, Nkogyo Joseph who was traveling in a ministry of health vehicle. Another journalist, Enock Matovu of the Nation Media Group’s NTV used the rear gate of the hospital to escape the attackers.
Kagiri, a Board member of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview that he was attacked by two men who were traveling in a Ministry of Health vehicle Registration number UG 3803/M as he approached the medical workers at Mityana Hospital to find out the cause of death of the unidentified man, “He warned me against taking any coverage, lest he breaks my video camera. He immediately stepped forward and slapped me on the left cheek, he kicked me and I fell down. When I got up, I just walked out of the hospital, where he together with his accomplice pursued me further. The other guy got hold of me, pushed me on the ground and started beating me as Nkogyo repeatedly hit my camera on the ground; he destroyed it beyond repair. The duo fled the scene upon arrival of commercial cyclists who came to my rescue,” Kagiri narrated.
Kagiri said that the cyclists chased after the vehicle in which the duo was traveling which forced them to branch off to Mityana police post. Surprisingly, Nkogyo further assaulted Kagiri by slapping him four times in the presence of the police. They later deposited the destroyed camera at the police. “I used the opportunity to open up a case of ‘assault and malicious damage to property’. The two were immediately released on bond.
The Ministry of Health could not own or disown the said attackers, “I have no details of those persons, I have just heard about the said attack of the journalist in rumors, but that’s something we can investigate. Am waiting for the journalist to call me,” The Ministry spokesperson, Rukia told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. The ministry has however ruled out any Marburg outbreak in the country.
The area police spokesperson, Phillip Mukasa declined to comment on the status of the investigations into this matter, “ Am not aware of this matter, no one has informed me about it since I was away in another district, but let me follow it up.” He told HRNJ-Uganda
The police should expedite investigations into this matter and bring the perpetrators to book. It’s not clear why the duo were blocking any coverage of the matter if indeed they were from the health ministry. The ministry should come clean on Nkogyo and his accomplice who took the law in their hands. HRNJ-Uganda will ensure that justice is delivered in this matter,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.