This Alert was originally issued by HRNJ-Uganda on May 12, 2016.
Government has switched of social media platforms in Uganda ahead of the swearing in of President Yoweri Museveni, after the February 18, 2016 disputed elections, which saw the incumbent,t who has been in power since 1986, win against seven (7) other contenders. This is the second time social media platforms are being switched off citing security concerns.
A message circulating reportedly from the telephone service providers to their subscribers quote a directive from the communications regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to switch off all the social media platforms till after the swearing in ceremony, citing security safe guards. In Feb, 2016 social media platforms were switched off arbitrarily, and a case is in court challenging the actions of UCC to violate the attendant freedom of expression and access to information.
Meanwhile, police on May 11, arrested two journalists, shot at and injured a Channel 44 reporter as the army caned a female journalist while covering a demonstration by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) supporters contesting the swearing in of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni due to take place on May 12, 2016 in the Capital, Kampala.
Denis Kato a journalist with Channel 44 was reportedly shot in his left leg and rushed to a nearby healthy center for first aid treatment, while Arnold Mukose of Salt FM and Ndugga Nicholas of Delta TV were arrested. Damalie Muhaye of KFM was caned by army officers forcing her to give up on covering the news story.
“I was standing at Radio One entrance (along Duster Street) covering from a distance people demonstrating at Nakasero market, when all over a sudden a rubber bullet hit my left leg”. Kato told HRNJ-Uganda in an interview. He said he was feeling severe pain as a result of the injury.
Muhaye who was caned by army officers told HRNJ-Uganda that she was covering a story about the unusually heavy traffic jam caused by traffic diversions by police ahead of the swearing in ceremony. “As I interviewed the locals, a scuffle ensued when army officers towing Col. Kizza Besigye’s car that had been impounded were pelted with objects. The army responded by caning people at the scene, and that’s how I fell victim of their wrath. I abandoned the story and left the place.” Muhaye narrated.
Elsewhere in Mengo, a Kampala suburb, police arrested journalists Arnold Mukose of Salt FM and Nicholas Ndugga of Delta TV for covering police officers who had surrounded the political party offices of the Justice Forum (JEEMA). JEEMA had earlier in the day addressed a press conference and thereafter the party officials led by their President, Asuman Basalirwa went to visit the Lord Mayor-elect, Erias Lukwago who is under house arrest. “On our way back from Lukwago’s home, we found when police had surrounded the JEEMA offices, when we started to cover the events, police arrested us and took us to Lungujja police station from where we recorded statements; we were detained for about two hours, before we were transferred to Old Kampala police division. We were later released without any charges preferred against us.” Mukose told HRNJ-Uganda.
The Division Police Commander of Old Kampala Police, Muhammad Kirumira told HRNJ-Uganda that the journalists were released because the case was not serious.
“UCC has continued to act in a partisan way by arbitrarily switching the various channels of communication for political reasons. Many Ugandans are inconvenienced whenever such forums are blocked without prior warning. About the actions of the police and army against journalists on duty, is very absurd. The security agents should act in a non-partisan way, and ensure a secure working environment for the media.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.