Journalists arrested for World Press Freedom Day procession in Kampala

Peaceful Assembly

On 3rd May 2017, eight journalists were detained for holding a march to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima stated that the journalists were arrested because they had not given police prior notification about their planned procession, which is required under the controversial 2013 Public Order Management Act.

Expression

The 2017 World Press Freedom Index ranks Uganda 112 out of 180 countries, dropping 10 spots from its 2016 ranking. The Index noted that “the 2016 presidential election saw serious media freedom violations, including threats to close down media outlets, Internet cuts, and verbal and physical attacks on reporters, especially those covering the opposition leaders”. In addition, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2017 report rated Uganda as “Not Free,” noting that both the Press Freedom Status and Net Freedom Status are rated as “Partly Free”.

On 4th May, the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda released a report entitled “Tough Times: Political Intolerance Stifles Media” that describes 135 violations against free speech and media by state agencies throughout 2016. The report also highlighted the Ugandan laws used to prosecute journalists and cases of widespread violence against media. Ugandan police topped the list of violators of journalists’ rights, with 83 recorded violations accounting for 61 percent of the total number of violations in 2016. 

On 3rd May, World Press Freedom Day, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima told journalists: "When we come to investigate you or even to arrest you, do not put up a fight. The fight ought to be in the right place, and that is the courts of law". Such statements are indicative of a media environment in which authorities seek to control journalists who in some way come into conflict with the government.

On 10th April 2017, outspoken feminist, LGBT and women's rights activist, and Ugandan academic Stella Nyanzi was officially charged in court for her online comments about President Yoweri Museveni that allegedly contravened the 2011 Computer Misuse Act. She had been suspended from her job as a research fellow at Makerere University in March and detained in Luzira women's prison for 33 days before being released on bail on 10th May. She has experienced serious health concerns since her release, including suffering from malaria, and must await another hearing in court on 25th May 2017. Four students from Makerere University - where Nyanzi worked - protested against her imprisonment and were held in detention for more than a week - until 22nd May - without bail.