Wednesday, July 30, 2014

HRNJ-Uganda alert, Police drags journalists’ leader to court over ‘obstruction’

Kampala, 30th/July/2014; a magistrate’s court at the Law Development Center at Makerere in Kampala has granted a cash bail to the Board Chairperson of the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, Mulindwa Mukasa in a case where he is allegedly accused of obstructing a police officer from arresting a suspect. The case was brought against him by the Wandegeya Police Station Commander, Julius Caesar Tusingwire. Mulindwa denied the charges.

Prosecution led by Naluzze Aisha Batala alleges that on 26th November 2013, Mulindwa obstructed a police officer, Julius Caesor Tusingwire from arresting a suspect at Wandegeya police station contrary to Section 238(B) of the Penal Code Act. However, Tusingwire, who was not present in court, did not name the said suspect.

This comes just 20days after Mulindwa Mukasa dragged Tusingwire to the High Court over inhumane and degrading  treatment, a case which is due to come up on September 09th, 2014 before Justice Lydia Mugambe, in which he prayed court to dismiss Tusingwire from the police force, among other prayers. He has vowed not to abandon the case.

Mulindwa, through his lawyer, Isaac Kimaze Ssemakadde prayed to court to dismiss the suit on ground that he was not dully served with criminal summons as well as the charge sheet by either a police officer or a court process server but learnt of the case sent through an sms by the investigating officer to a third party. According to the case file, the charge sheet was received by court on 17th/June/2014 and signed and sealed the following day. “The failure to serve the accused was in bad faith, it tantamounts to violation of his right to be served and to prepare his defence,” Ssemakadde told Court presided over by the Senior Principal Magistrate Grade 1, Shwanda Nkore Jolly.

Mulindwa was released on a cash bail of UGX 150,000/= (USD 60), with one surety, Martin Busuulwa Nsereko, a journalist with WBS TV at a non-cash bond of UGX 550,000/= (USD 200), but told to produce a second surety at the next court sitting. The matter was adjourned to August 08th, 2014 for court to rule as to whether there was due service to Mulindwa or not.

HRNJ-Uganda hopes that the court will dismiss this case because it violated the procedures of natural justice where the police declined to serve the defendant with the charge sheet, and also issue him with summons. Court should not condone the police’s violation of people’s rights to fair justice. We believe that this is a trumped up charge aimed at intimidating Mulindwa to withdraw the earlier High Court Civil case instituted against the DPC, Tusingwire.” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.

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.