KAMPALA — The United State Ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown has condemned ree military and police attacks on Ugandan journalists.
The Ambassador was speaking at the launch of Human Rights Network For Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) 2020 Press Freedom Index Report April 1, 2021.
The report documents the state of media freedom in Uganda in the year 2020, citing 174 press freedom violations, including 69 assault cases and 40 cases of blocking access.
Approximately 104 cases out of 174 violations and abuses were caused by members of the Uganda Police, according to the report.
“No matter the reasons, when journalists are attacked, individuals begin to self-censor, fear replaces truth, and all of our societies suffer. A culture of impunity for such actions must not be allowed to persist in any country,” Ambassador Brown said.
“Just since my arrival [in Uganda] at the end of October , we have seen repeated incidents of harassment against Ugandan journalists who have been threatened, beaten, arrested, detained, had their credentials cancelled, and equipment confiscated or destroyed. Their crime? Doing their job.”
She said that the benefits of free press and media cannot be underestimated noting that: “journalists give all of us the opportunity to know more about ourselves, our countries, our communities, our governments, and our shared world. Journalism gives voice to the voiceless, empowers citizens to engage in the life of their community, and exposes injustice. This makes us better. This makes us stronger”.
“Journalists promote transparency. They are fact finders. They are truth tellers. They inform the public on issues critical to their country’s future. They introduce new ideas and individuals working to change the world. And they can produce powerful stories that hold government, institutions, and influential individuals accountable. For all these reasons, journalists should be able to carry out their responsibilities without fear of violence or retribution. Because journalism is not a crime.”
“No matter the reasons, when journalists are attacked, individuals begin to self-censor, fear replaces truth, and all of our societies suffer. A culture of impunity for such actions must not be allowed to persist in any country”.
She applauded HRNJ-Uganda’s (Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda) work.
“When reality falls short of what is enshrined in Uganda’s constitution — “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of the press and the media,” — organizations like HRNJ-Uganda have taken on the responsibility to defend these rights.”
The ambassador said Everyone, each and every one of us, at every level, has the responsibility to protect journalists in the course of carrying out their duties.
“So while HRNJ-Uganda and its human rights journalists strive to bring us breaking news and thoughtful exposes to create a “non-violent, corruption –free, and human rights observing society,” let us support their mission by standing up for “journalists to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“To the reporters, editors, photographers, and cameramen in the room today: Thank you for what you do everyday, under difficult circumstances, to keep us informed and to bring us closer to realizing our democratic ideal”.
She said democracy is not for the passive or faint of heart; it requires action, and it requires bravery. I am honored to be in the company of so many brave journalists and their supporters today,” she added.