The Human Rights Network for Journalistsâ€”HRNJ has appealed to government to stop harassing journalists. This appeal comes on the heels of several cases of arrests, intimidation and relocations of journalists who have been commenting about the ongoing standoff at Kampala Capital City Authority--KCCA.
This appeal comes on the heels of several cases of arrests, intimidation and relocations of journalists who have been commenting about the ongoing standoff at Kampala Capital City Authority--KCCA.
HRNJ National Coordinator Robert Sempala also asked government to stop threatening with closure media houses that offer platform to those who hold divergent views about the ongoing events within the City leadership.
The wrangle started on November 25th when over 20 journalists were blocked from accessing the KCCA chambers to cover the controversial impeachment of Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.
Moments later the KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi attacked the media alleging that they allowed political protagonists to use radio to communicate messages that have incited the public to attack KCCA staff. On Monday, some KCCA workers were attacked and beaten in downtown Kampala.
Sempala calls on media managers to ignore Musisi’s statements and resist what he calls unwarranted pressure from state agencies, but instead stick to their professional and progressive way of managing their media houses.
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HRNJ also calls on the Uganda Communications Commission—UCC which is a statutory regulatory body to desist from being used to muzzle the very media it is supposed to supervise.
Sempala further cites some of the staff of Radio Akaboozi, which is a sister station to Radio One,who are currently on suspension over their conduct while on air. Those on suspension include; Basajjamivule also known as Abbey Sewakiryanga, PK Bossa Ssengendo, Simon Kaggwa Njala and Kamya Makumbi. The radio is owned by Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka.
The suspension came after the management reportedly received complaints from government officials about the way they handled their on air programs.
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Kaggwa Njala, one of the affected radio presenters, says he has no problem with being relocated, but noted that management must have acted out of pressure from government. He adds that he highly suspects that his relocation is part of the ongoing media suppression but he remains a journalist.
However, Jeff Kiwanuka the Radio One Administrator says the radio management did not succumb to any pressure and the relocations had nothing to do with the ongoing KCCA leadership wrangle. He states that Kaggwa Njala’s relocation was because of a staff shortage in the newsroom while Basajja Mivule is on sick leave and is expected back to work next week. Efforts to get Basajja on phone have been futile since his phone returned a busy tone.
The suspension of the radio journalists comes barely three weeks after the Resident City commissioner Mpimbaza Hashaka wrote a letter to the Radio One management accusing it of hosting what he called negative elements that are deliberately tarnishing the image of KCCA.
Sempala stated that they are making arrangements to sue Hashaka for failing to withdraw his statement and apologise to journalists.
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HRNJ also cited human rights violations against other journalists such as the arrests last week of Kasule Richard of Top Radio and Mulindwa Mukasa, the HRNJ chairperson. Others are the attempted kidnap of Gideon Tugume, a freelance journalist from George Street and detention of Kyambadde Sam of Metro FM who was following up a story in Bakuli a Kampala suburb.