- During the August Arua by-elections, journalists were arrested, trailed and lost their gadgets during the violence
- In the UNESCO report, when asked to give their views on the mechanisms used in their organizations to ensure safety of female journalists while in the field, most respondents (28.1 per cent) said that their supervisors choose not to assign them to cover potentially risky events and subjects
- The UNESCO report paints a grim picture of the situation under which Ugandan journalists work although there is room for improvement
- The Journalists and media managers, agreed during the meeting to ensure that the safety of the staff particularly female journalists are given priority
Arua. The security forces have been asked to be non-violent to Journalists as they carry out their duties in the West Nile region.
Speaking during a round table discussion on safety of female journalists by Uganda Media Women Association (UMWA) on the dissemination of the UNESCO report on Tuesday, the Program Manager for Media Focus on Africa, Ms Jan Ajwang, said that female journalists in Uganda face specific safety risks and a number of threats including cyber stalking, obscene remarks, unwanted sexual advances, sending sexually evocative pictures, rape, attempted rape, sexually explicit jokes, inappropriate touching of one’s body.
“Issues of safety for journalists cannot be undermined. The challenges keep on growing both for online and offline journalists. The duty bearers should make safety for journalists as a priority.”
The discussion was based on situation analysis report done y UMWA, Media Focus on Africa Uganda with support from UNESCO where West Nile Press Association facilitated the meeting.
She said there was need for female journalists to be aware of their rights and avoid fertile grounds that makes them prone to being insecure. “This is a concerted effort that the rights of journalists are respected which makes the work easier,” she said.
The Program Manager of Media Focus on Africa, Ms Jan Ajwang making a presentation during the round table meeting. Photo by Felix.
From the findings, it was established that most media houses that were represented by the respondents monitor the safety of journalists and have written policies to protect journalists. However, it was observed that even though the policies are available, they are rarely implemented.
The respondents also observed that the available media house policies that protect journalists did not recognise specific risks faced by female employees.
The District Information Officer, Ms Consolate Olemaru, said: “Issues of sexual harassments of female journalists at work places should not continue because this infringes on their rights and compromise during work. It is unfortunate that many female journalists fall victims of cyber attacks on social media. This lowers the morale of the affected female journalists to work well.”
Ms Sarah Amviko, the Human Resource Manager of Radio Pacis speaking during the round-table meeting. Photo by Felix.
The Police West Nile Police Public Relations Officer, Ms Josephine Angucia, said: “If the situation is not fine, use tactics because in every field there are challenges. In operational fields, everyone can become a victim, so use the tactics. But we discourage our officers against manhandling journalists. Do not die for the sake of the story.”
Mr Jonathan Driliga, the News Editor for Arua One Fm, said there was need for the female journalists to guard against exposing themselves to dangers. “The cases of indecent dressing is spot on because it is a personal responsibility for everyone journalist to ensure that he/she dresses properly and not in a situation that can lure one into temptation.”
CASES AT GLANCE IN WEST NILE
- In 2014, reporter with Red Pepper, Andrew Amvesi was arrested on orders of an Officer in Charge Criminal department for Koboko district. The OC CID was allegedly involved in a sexual scandal. He was released after intervention by members of West Nile Press Association without any charge.
- In January 2018, the Director of The West Nile Today Magazine, Osman Draga, was arrested on orders of the Woman MP for Maracha and was charged with Offensive Communication on social media. He was released after spending two nights in the police cells. Draga previously served as Deputy Editor for Arua One Fm. His laptop and phones are still confiscated by police, hence stifling his work.
- Freelance journalist in Adjumani, Amacha Goli, is still battling defamation case at Arua High Court. HRNJ-U is providing legal support for the journalist.
- In August 2018, journalists, Felix Warom of Daily Monitor, Nsangi Mara (NBS tV), and Proscovia Nankanja (Arua One Fm) were trailed by security personnel for one month after the chaos that rocked the by-elections. The police declined to record the statements of the trailing both on phone and with cars.