The Federation of African Journalists has called upon the government of Uganda to Uphold Safety of Journalists, and End Impunity.
FAJ, an umbrella body representing 50,000 journalists in Africa has condemned the arbitrary arrests, torture and detention incommunicado of journalists in Uganda. It called on the authorities to ensure the safety of journalists in the course of their duty, following the attacks and arrests meted last Monday 20 august to journalists covering the protests requesting the release of the pop singer and lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine, and his four colleagues allegedly arrested, tortured and detained since last week.
“Uganda Government should create a conducive environment for free and safe exercise of journalism in the country, the police and military attacks on journalists at demonstrations are uncalled for and unacceptable,” said Abdulwaheed Odusile, President of FAJ.
According to media reports, protesters took to the streets on Monday requesting the release of the five lawmakers arrested, detained and indicted for «unlawful possession of firearms».
Protesters put blockades and lit bonfires in the streets. The journalists who were covering the events were attacked, beaten up, arrested, and detained. Their equipments were destroyed or confiscated ; some were ordered to erase all the records. Footages on social media showed the Reuters reporter James Akena on his knees being violently beaten by Uganda soldiers. Many other journalists of the NTV, The Observer, and others were beaten and injured.
Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) condemned the brutal acts of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Police, the arbitrary arrests, torture and detention of journalists in line of duty, and demanded their unconditional release and redress for the injured. « Stopping journalists from doing their work is contravention of article 41 of the Uganda Constitution that guarantees Access to Information » said UJU President Ms Lucy Anyango Ekadu. « We demand compensation for the journalists who suffered bodily injuries, destruction of their equipment including video and still cameras, laptop computers, property and even money » she added.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) in a statement yesterday expressed apologies over the “conduct of soldiers who molested some journalists » and « has ordered their arrest and punishment”.
UJU with its partner the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) are considering legal proceedings against the security personnel who tortured journalists. Meanwhile UJU and sister media organisations are also considering indefinite blackout on covering all government events until the safety of journalists is guaranteed.
FAJ joins UJU to condemn the permanent violence against journalists in Uganda and calls on the government to uphold the safety of journalists, and end the impunity for crimes against journalists.
FAJ reiterates the call to President Yoweri Museveni to prevail on his government and security forces to allow journalists to operate freely in the country as outlined by the African Union in the Declaration of principles of freedom of expression in Africa.