Ugandan journalists, writers still being targeted
Attacks against journalists remain a major cause for concern in Uganda and the legal system does not always ensure their protection. Though there have been some cases in which a court's ruling addressed crimes committed against journalists, more often journalists are not adequately compensated for damage, either physical or to personal property, after being assaulted or detained.
On 16th February 2017, police detained Kabarole Research Centre FM radio reporter, Nicholas Nahwera, for publishing a defamatory story about Totina Nester Kisembo. Nahwera was questioned for 19 hours in the presence of Totina and asked to reveal his sources, which he refused to do. He was later released without charge. Diana Nandudu, a legal officer at the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ), welcomed Nahwera's release, declaring:
“We appreciate the timely intervention [of the District Police Commander] to secure the freedom of this reporter. This is a wonderful step towards reducing case backlog in courts of judicature in Uganda".
On 10th March 2017, Joram Mwesigye, the former commander of the Old Kampala District police was convicted of common assault for attacking TV journalist, Andrew Lwanda, while Lwanda was reporting on a protest in January 2015. The journalist sustained serious injuries and is still rehabilitating. HRNJ criticised the comparatively light sentencing as "an insult to journalists". Mwesigye was fined one million Ugandan shillings (approximately $280) and forced to pay compensation of five million Ugandan shillings (approximately $1,490). HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala, commented on the court's decision, stating:
"We believe the judgment is an insult to journalists and renders them more susceptible to attack by such errant security officers. This judgment should be appealed against”.
In a separate and alarming blow to freedom of speech and the press, the authorities seized more than 600 copies of a book entitled Controlling Consent: Uganda's 2016 Elections, edited by two Makarere University professors. The book is an analysis of the 2016 presidential elections and future governance in Uganda. The authors were accused of citing falsehoods in their book. The Ugandan government has previously confiscated publications perceived as critical of the regime.