- Security forces have remained a threat to the media in Uganda with cases of brutality during arrests and detention
- Four journalists in Arua are facing threats and trailing by security forces after the Arua Municipality by-elections
- Two journalists, Herbert Zziwa and Ronald Muwonge were arrested and detained on August 13 in Arua as they covered the Municipality by-elections
- The Human Rights Network for Journalists is equipping the journalists with knowledge on legal systems that would empower them on how they can work well in conformity to the relevant laws
Arua- The current political system that is engaged in tracking, arrests and clobbering of journalists in their line of duty has created fear in many of those who use their pen and paper to defend the voiceless.
The journalists, who are the fourth arm of the government, have of recent been faced with difficulties in executing their duties. They are not free to carry out their noble duty of informing, educating and being watchdog of society.
On Monday, Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ-U) with funding from Freedom House, have trained about 45 journalists under West Nile Press Association (WENPA) to equip them with the legal systems and how they can safeguard themselves from the continued attacks by the state agents.
Speaking during the opening of the two days training in Arua town, the Executive Director for HRNJ-Uganda, Mr Robert Ssempala, said: “If any of you are uncomfortable, report because one attack is on every journalist. If you find the situation is not okay, run away because they are ruthless. We need to fight the impunity against journalists with all our energy.”
So far, Mr Muwanga Ronald, Mr Herbert Zziwa, all of NTV and Mr James Akena, a Senior Photojournalist with Reuters News Agency have reported the cases of brutality to Uganda Human Rights Commission for redress.
Ssempala said there has been a systematic attack by UPDF soldiers and the police which, he said undermines the freedom of expression. “You should not be intimidated. We need to support one another in this trying times. Remain firm and do not move alone but as a team so that one can capture evidence. If you move alone, you will have no body to support you,” he added.
Mr James Nkuubi, one of the lead facilitators of the training speaking to the journalists. Photo by Felix
In Arua, during and after the by-elections of Arua Municipality, Ms Prossy Nankanja (Arua One Fm), Mr Felix (Daily Monitor) and Nsangi Mara (NBS Tv) have continued to receive threats and being trailed by security forces. The security forces, have been demanding for audio recordings, video clips and photos that were taken during the by-election campaigns that ended with violence.
The Journalists, during the training acknowledged that the media landscape is under serious attack meant to muzzle it. They said there was need for security forces to appreciate the role the media plays. In his recent State of the Nation Address at State House in Entebbe, President Yoweri Museveni labeled the NBS Proprietor as a ‘Boy’ a statement that undermines the role of media.
Museveni also singled out some of the media houses whom he said were engaged in irresponsible reporting. The Chairman of West Nile Press Association, Mr Aluma Clement, said there was need for the journalists to work as a team and report any incidences of threats to police and the bodies that fight for the rights of journalists.
“This training comes at a time when some of our members are being trailed by security forces. So we need to be united during the times of our work,” he said.
Some of the legislation in the country have remained unfriendly to the media that stifles the press freedom and demand for accountability on the state in power.