Saturday, April 23, 2011

Social media in Uganda is under attack

Kampala, 19th/April/2011; the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) is under pressure from security apparatus to block social media platforms as activists and politicians intensify their ‘walk-to-work’ campaign protesting high costs of fuel and other commodities.
According to the April 14th letter obtained by HRNJ-Uganda, the UCC has succumbed to the security pressure and directed the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to shut down face book and twitter platforms for 24 hours.
The Uganda Communications Commission was merged late 2010 with the Broadcasting Council  into one regulatory body that will oversee both communication and broadcasting matters in the country. It’s under the ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
In the same letter signed by Mr. Quinto Ojok, the Acting executive Director addressed to major providers of internet namely; Broad Band Company, Foris Telecom Company and Infocom limited, among others, stated that UCC was requested by security agencies to minimize the use of such platforms.
“ We have received a request from security agencies that there’s need to minimize the media that may escalate violence to the public in respect of the ongoing situation due to the demonstration relating to ‘Walk-to-Work’ mainly by the opposition in the country. As a stakeholder that has communication infrastructures that host media such as face book and twitter, the commission wishes to request for your indulgence in this matter” the letter reads apart.
The letter added that ISPs were required to block the use of face book and twitter for 24 hours as of now, that is: 14th April 2011 at 3:30pm to eliminate the connection and sharing of information that incite the public.
The Daily Monitor quoted the UCC interim boss Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi as saying that there was a miscommunication and that the letter wasn’t necessary. He nonetheless didn’t deny his office had sent out the letter
In the run up to the February 2011 general elections, the Uganda Communication Commission implemented a draft policy which is not a law to gag telecommunication sector.
Mr. Godfrey Mutabazi accompanied by a team from the regulatory body met industry players on 16th/Feb/2011 and issued specific warnings against sending messages that he said could instigate hatred, violence and unrest during the electioneering period.
He however warned that any provider who breaches guidelines that have been set for this service, which is mainly operated through cell phones, risks losing their operation licenses and would face instant closure.
On election day, 18th/Feb/2011 telecommunication service providers blocked to DemGroup text message relaying election related reports to their data centre established at Muyenga, a Kampala suburb in Makindye division.
Sector members told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) during that time that there had been no consultation carried out with them.
“We doubt whether the actions of the regulators are under their mandate since there’s no law governing the merged institutions. We condemn in the strongest terms possible the use of illegal means to gag both telecommunication and internet sectors. Such actions must be challenged in courts of law” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
He said that the draft policy was not drafted to stop incitement but to abuse the right to freedom of expression because it was very clear that the DemGroup messages were neither inciting violence nor threatening anyone. Some regulators denied having a role in blocking the messages and all shifted the unlawful actions to regulators.
HRNJ-Uganda has also documented instances where service providers passed on bio data of their clients to the National Resistance Movement which the party used for campaign and a number of calls were intercepted.
HRNJ-Uganda regards UCC’s actions as an abuse to freedom of expression in the country and a gross violation of the right to privacy as stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
We call for the independence of Uganda Communication Commission from the executive.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eight journalists injured in the walk to work protest

Kampala, 14th/April/2011; Eight journalists have been attacked and injured in different parts of the country as they covered the proceedings of the second day of the walk-to-work campaign in which politicians and the civil society are protesting high fuel and other commodities.
  1. In Kampala, WBS TV cameraman Francis Mukasa was beaten at Makindye Ssabagabo court while covering protests following the arrest the Kampala mayor elect Ssalongo Erias Lukwago. Mukasa suffocated after police flashed tear gas onto him. He was rushed to Nsambya hospital in severe condition.
  2. Ronald Muyinda a Radio one journalist was roughed up by military personnel at Wampeewo from where he was relaying live scenes of gun fire. Muyinda was properly identified as a journalist because he was in his radio station jacket. Men in military police attires charged at him and manhandled him. This resulted into breaking his pelvic and the left leg.
  3. Stuart Iga of the Red pepper got mixed up in the stampede and in the process he sustained injuries on the arms, ribs and right jaw as he struggled to protect his still camera.
  4. Yunusu Ntale, a journalist with Central Broadcasting Service (CBS FM) sustained a big cut on his left arm after hit by a teargas canister. He was covering protests at Kasubi, a Kampala suburb at around 1pm.
  5. In Masaka district, the UPDF and the police applied violent means of calming the protesters. In the process, four journalists became victims. Ali Mabule a journalist with the New Vision was beaten up by a UPDF soldier as he tried to take a photograph of a UPDF soldier beating up a protestor near New Vision offices in Masaka.
  6. Isa Aliga an NTV Masaka correspondent was clobbered and his video camera confiscated by UPDF soldiers. In the process Aliga sustained cuts on his left eye and arm.
  7. Norman Kabugu a journalist with a daily tabloid Kamunye was beaten by UPDF soldiers for taking photographs of a fellow journalist Ali Mabule being beaten by UPDF. The UPDF also confiscated his camera.
  8. Dismus Buregyeya a New Vision journalist also received beatings and camera confiscated by the UPDF during the same protests.
“Most victim journalists we have talked to indicate that they were properly addressed with stations’ marked jackets and identifications. There was no way the military could have mistakenly identified these journalists. Therefore, these were organized crimes to stop journalists from documenting brutal attacks against protestors” said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala
HRNJ-Uganda is investigating reports that the Broadcasting Council on 14th/4/2011 was secretly issuing directives to media houses to stop live broadcasts of protests as well as video clips of Dr. Kiiza Besigye whose figure was allegedly shot.  Dr. Besigye is a leader of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change.
To this effect, HRNJ-Uganda states that;
-          The UPDF returns all the confiscated tools to their respective owners with immediate effect.
-          We are dragging individuals commanders to court for these violations, amongst them are Col. David Muhoozi the commandant of Armored Brigade in Masaka and the military police commandant among others.
-          We implore the security forces to exhibit professionalism and restraint in such situations in protecting the 4th estate of gov’t- the media.
-          Call upon Ugandan journalists to remain solid and united in championing the cause for a free media in Uganda at all times.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Monday, April 11, 2011

TV Journalist arrested, detained for 12 hours

Kampala, 11th/April/2011; The Bukedde television journalist Ssemakula Bambalazabwe has been arrested and detained for 12 hours at Mutundwe police post.
Ssemakula was arrested on Saturday the 09th/April/2011 at 9pm while covering a scuffle at Kampala University Mutundwe campus between students and university administration. The scuffle ensued after some properties of the students had been thrown out of the hostel in a bid to create space for new foreign students.
He was arrested by a group of drunkard policemen lead by one policeman called Asimwe who beat him up sustaining injuries on his ankle and other parts of the body.
Ssemakula was dumped at the Mutundwe police post and policemen made off with his money totaling to eighty thousand Uganda shillings about thirty dollars.
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that by the time of Ssemakula’s arrest he was filming the scuffle. He was at first confronted by the university Dean of students only identified as Harriet who accused him of being an intruder.
“Five policemen confronted me and I was accused of filming them while on duty. I was arrested, handcuffed and assaulted. I was manhandled and later dumped at Mutundwe police post. While I was in cells the police denied me the right to communicate to my family or bosses” Said Ssemakula
The Bukedde Television editor Hannington Muluuta told HRNJ-Uganda that Ssemakula was detained without a charge and he recorded a statement after their intervention.
“We meet the Officer in Charge of the police post known as Rugumayo who was not aware of the detained journalist. Most police men at the post are drunkard and we also saw many inmates being harassed inside the police cells” said Muluuta
Ssemakula was charged with inciting violence and released on police bond.
HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest term possible the acts of violence subjected to Ssemakula and now that the matter has been brought to the attention of A/IGP Asan Kasingye, we call for the immediate investigation into the conduct of policemen at Mutundwe police post and their prosecution.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Journalist charged under an abolished law.

Mpigi, /7th/April/2011; Court in Buwama has charged Central Broadcasting Services CBSFM) journalist Yoweri Musisi under publishing false news law which was nullified by the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court Judge J.N. Mulenga in 2004 declared the law on publishing false news unconstitutional saying that it was exerting unacceptable chilling effect on the freedom of expression.

The law on publishing false was challenged by Charles Onyango Obbo and Andrew Mujuni Mwenda in 2002.

Musisi 37, a resident of Nabusanke, Nkozi Sub county Mpigi district on 24th/March/2011 appeared before Buwama Grade II magistrate court and charged with publishing false news. He entered a plea of not guilty.

Musisi was on 19th/March/2011 arrested and detained at Buwama police station. He has been on police bond which was granted to him following the intervention of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda).

Prosecution alleged that Musisi on 08th/March/2011 published false statement likely to cause fear and alarm to the public contrary to section 50 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 120.

“It’s unfortunate that individuals in justice institutions decided to use illegitimate laws under guise of bringing justice. I think such an act is intentional to criminalise the work of the media and persecute Musisi in Uganda” said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala

HRNJ-Uganda condemns in the strongest term possible the use of unconstitutional laws under guise of bringing justice.

We are petitioning the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to quash the charges against Musisi and set him free unconditionally.

Musisi was release on a non cash bail and required to report back on 28th/April/2011
According to the prosecutor, police has not concluded investigations into the matter.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Vision photo journalist who was assaulted is being persecuted

Kanungu, 4th/April/2011; Police in Kanungu has opened triumphed-up charges against the New Vision journalist Patson Baraire who was assaulted in court premises over taking a photo without permission.

On 18th/March/2011 the councilor elect of Kanungu town council Emmy Magezi Byarugaba assaulted Baraire after attending a court session where he (Byarugaba) was accused of assaulting some individuals during the local council elections.

Baraire immediately reported the matter to police, recorded a statement and later transferred to the police surgeon to be diagnosed with bodily injuries.

Sources at the Kanungu police told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda
HRNJ-Uganda) that Byarugaba opened a counter case against the journalist on the same day.

We have learnt that Baraire was supposed to be taken to court on 1st/April/2011 on charges of assaulting Byarugaba but the intervention of HRNJ-Uganda has caused the Resident State Attorney has called for the case file and study the charges.

“I was informed by police through a phone call on Friday morning the 1st/April/2011 that I was being taken to court to answer charges of assaulting Byarugaba. I wondered how I could be taken to court yet I reported an assaulted to police” said Baraire

Information reaching HRNJ-Uganda indicates that the charge sheet is likely to be amended to fighting in a public place from assault.

When HRNJ-Uganda contacted the Kanungu District Police Commander (DPC) Moses Ssemakula said both Baraire and Byarugaba are on charges of fighting in a public place and they are being taken to court any time this week.

“It’s absurd that police officials in Kanungu district could be convinced that a photo journalist (Baraire) who was on duty could beat-up somebody whom he was photographing. We insist that these are flimsy charges preferred against Baraire” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

Ssebaggala said such charges against Baraire are intended to frustrate him from pursuing the assault case against Byarugaba.

HRNJ-Uganda expresses its dismay with the way the police is persecuting Baraire and demand that police should withdraw such charges against Baraire with immediate effect.

We also call for the intervention of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) into the matter as a way of stopping individuals in police from persecuting Baraire.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

Two Kabale journalists’ lives in danger

Kabale, 25th/March/2011; The Kabale Resident District Commissioner (RDC) has threatened a legal suit against two journalists who reported stories in the media that he pulled out a gun to shoot a Umeme staff. The RDC is also alleged to have mobilized communities to attack journalists which the RDC denies.

Umeme is an electricity service provider in Uganda.

Goodluck Musinguzi, a journalist with the New Vision and Robert Muhereza who works for the Daily Monitor wrote stories alleging that RDC Cox Nyakairu pulled out a gun to Umeme staff that had gone to disconnect him over the enormous electricity bill. Nyakairu could not let the staff go until the power was reconnected.

A number of radio stations in the area and national news papers ranging from the New Vision, the Daily Monitor and the Red pepper among others have ran stories about the conduct of the RDC

The Resident District Commissioner is a president’s representative at the district whose constitutional mandate is to monitor the implementation of central and local government services in the district and is the chairperson of the district security committee.

On 25th/March/2011 Nyakairu flanked by his lawyers vowed to take the two journalists to court over defamation and spreading false information. He also accused reporters for being used by his rivals to tarnish his name. The press conference got a massive coverage by radio stations in the region until Monday 28th/March/2011.

HRNJ-Uganda has noted the growing uneasiness for the two journalists due to confrontations received from members of the public.

“Since the press conference I have been confronted on different occasions by members of the public curious about attacking RDC Nyakairu in my news stories” said Musinguzi.

Musinguzi told HRNJ-Uganda researcher that he wrote a well balanced story because whoever was involved in the story was contacted ranging from the RDC to Umeme officials who confirmed that company’s technician called Godfrey Kirembeka was threatened with a gun at the RDC’s home.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that RDC Nyakairu owed Umeme four million eight hundred thousand Uganda shillings (UGX 4.8m) which has accumulated since 2008 the time he was posted in Kabale district.

When HRNJ-Uganda contacted the RDC Nyakairu, he however said he should not be accountable for public reaction towards the duo.

“They have offended the public, my relatives and friends writing negative stories about me. It’s within their rights to express discomfort otherwise am considering taking them to court” said Nyakairu.

“Journalists play an oversight role and they should not be punished for exposing ills in the society. Such good causes should be defended resentfully to encourage other Medias or journalists do their role for the public good” said HRNJ-Uganda programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

Although the RDC has the right to seek legal redress in courts of law but we are concerned about the public reaction in this matter because it’s likely to compromise the security of the journalists

HRNJ-Uganda calls for the quick intervention of the appointing authority and the Uganda Police Force (UPF) to investigate RDC Nyakairu and be punished for the misconduct.

For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627