- Journalists across the West Nile have also come under attack especially by the security personnel
- The overall theme of the event is “the role of media in elections and democracy”
- The main events take place in Adis-Ababa, Ethiopia, national and local commemorations also take place around the world
West Nile- The truth has come under attack by the state actors in Uganda.
This pose a great threat to the future of Journalists who are trained to defend the truth and speak for the voiceless. Uganda is witnessing implementation of draconian laws to gag the media especially by Uganda Communications Commission.
It has closed media houses at will and just days to the World Press Freedom Day, it has recommended the suspension of editors and producers at radio and Television stations.
This action by UCC is unhealthy in a country where the government boasts of liberalizing the Media space. Government should instead defend the rights of the Journalists instead of muzzling their operations.
Journalists across West Nile sub-region have suffered the same threats and violence. This was quite evident during the 2018 Arua Municipality by-elections and Nebbi Municipality elections. But as this year started, the attacks on the media in West Nile has reduced although some of those who were being trailed by the security still feel insecure.
As part of the commemoration, the journalists across West Nile have agreed to make an impact on communities that they fight for. They are planting trees. Already there is a plan to plant 2000 tree seedlings across the region in order to avert environmental degradation.
The Chairperson of the West Nile Press Association, Clement Aluma, said the association members will be planting 2000 trees this year as a beginning but the number will be growing the subsequent years. In Arua, Radio Pacis is also cleaning Ediofe trading center and will be having community radio dialogue.
“As we commemorate this day, issues of safety for journalists cannot be underestimated, the challenges keep on growing both for online and offline journalists. The duty bearers should make safety for journalists a priority. We call upon everyone to Defend Journalism. Defend the Truth and make it a friendly profession.”
In Adjumani, the journalists are cleaning the town and planting trees in order to save the environment. In Nebbi, there will be cleaning of the town too and tree planting.
He said the association encourages each of its members to at least plant five trees at home to mitigate the effects as an example to those they preach to. Madi and West Nile diocese donated 100 tree seedlings for the Association to start with today.
The government should stop closure of radio stations that hosts opposition politicians as they are denying citizens the right to information. Recently, government enacted Access to Information Act, and this should be respected by allowing the politicians to express their views as they get in contact with the citizens, who holds them accountable in a free manner.
We ask government not to drag the media in their fight with the opposition politicians. The media platform is always open to everyone regardless of the political or religious affiliations.
Cases of violence against journalists in West Nile since 2014
- During the 2018 August Arua Municipality by-elections, journalists were arrested, trailed and lost their gadgets during the violence, one such example is Ms Mara Nsangi Nalwadda, NBS correspondent in Arua whose camera was confiscated though HRNJ-Uganda has been working to replace it.
- 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.
- In 2017, Journalist, John Unzima, a New Vision correspondent for Adjumani district was seriously beaten by boda-boda cyclists as they demonstrated in Adjumani town while Ronald Oguzu of the same company was also beaten by a mob in Vurra as he covered a meeting of land wrangle in Vurra, he lost two teeth in the process.
- 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.