Uganda be­com­ing a dan­ger­ous place for jour­nal­ists, and pre­side

The East African - - NEWS -

By DICTA ASIIMWE

IN THE PAST TWO MONTHS, jour­nal­ists in Uganda have been ar­rested, beaten and had their equipment de­stroyed. Me­dia and democ­racy ex­perts are fore­cast­ing harder times ahead as se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­ten­sify their crit­i­cism of the me­dia.

Cov­er­ing the numer­ous mys­te­ri­ous killings and the con­tin­u­ous crack­down against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, and their own cor­re­spond­ing neg­a­tive por­trayal at home and in­ter­na­tion­ally by the gov­ern­ment has made jour­nal­ism dan­ger­ous in Uganda.

Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni last week ac­cused jour­nal­ists of politi­cis­ing their work in­stead of re­port­ing truth and facts. He ac­cused the me­dia of giv­ing a “black­out” to news of his launch­ing of fac­to­ries, the fact that Uganda is pro­duc­ing ex­cess elec­tric­ity from the Karuma, Bu­ja­gali and Isimba dams, and the fact that the coun­try has fi­nally reached the take­off eco­nomic stage. He ac­cused the me­dia of pre­fer­ring fake news.

Robert Sem­pala, the na­tional co-or­di­na­tor for Hu­man Rights Net­work for Jour­nal­ists in Uganda fears that the pres­i­dent’s ut­ter­ances may em­bolden se­cu­rity and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to go harder at jour­nal­ists.

“The pres­i­dent for­gets that as the com­man­der-in-chief he wields a lot of power over se­cu­rity forces ea­ger to please him,” he said.

The For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents As­so­ci­a­tion of Uganda said in a state­ment on Septem­ber 12 that at least 10 ap­pli­ca­tions by jour­nal­ists seek­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion to re­port from Uganda had been re­jected.

Of­wono Opondo, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Uganda Me­dia Cen­tre said the gov­ern­ment just changed the process of ac­cred­i­ta­tion, and now it in­volves back­ground checks on for­eign jour­nal­ists to weed out spies.

But Mr Opondo later told an online pub­li­ca­tion that for­eign jour­nal­ists of­ten re­ported pro-op­po­si­tion sto­ries and so there was no need to ac­credit peo­ple pro­duc­ing “false news.’’

Ac­cred­i­ta­tion

“Be­sides, ac­cred­i­ta­tion is the pre­rog­a­tive of the host gov­ern­ment. For­eign jour­nal­ists can­not force the Uganda gov­ern­ment to give them or any­body else visa, ac­cred­i­ta­tion or work per­mit,” he tweeted.

In ad­di­tion to re­fus­ing to ac­credit for­eign jour­nal­ists, the gov­ern­ment also de­ported an Amer­i­can and a Cana­dian, ac­cus­ing them of be­ing me­dia strate­gists for Kyadondo East Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Robert Kyag­u­lanyi, aka Bobi Wine.

Mr Opondo says Jac­que­line Wolf­son, an Amer­i­can who was op­er­at­ing a char­ity, was de­ported for work­ing in Uganda on a tourist visa. Ms Wolf­son had ear­lier been ac­cused of fund­ing Mr Kyag­u­lanyi’s ac­tiv­i­ties and con­tract­ing Cana­dian com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist Anne White­head.

Ms White­head, who is ac­cused of

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