Thursday 10.5.2018 in Latest Developments in Uganda Country Page
Journalists denied access to courts and assaulted
Daily Monitor photo journalist Abubaker Lubowa blocks a police officer from punching a fellow journalist at Police headquarters in Naguru, when journalists were barred from covering the Kirumira proceedings— Daily Monitor (@DailyMonitor) April 19, 2018
Photo Credit: Katumba badru pic.twitter.com/E9esyGApug
On 19th April 2018, Ugandan journalists were denied access to a police court that was expected to hand down a ruling on charges against former Buyende District Police Commander Muhammad Kirumira. He was charged with unlawful arrests and excessive use of authority in 2013 and 2014 and subsequently demoted. Counter-terrorism police were deployed at all entrances to the court.
On 22nd February, police also blocked journalists from covering court proceedings in the same case, during which time a reporter with Bukedde newspaper was allegedly assaulted. When asked about the decision to block journalists' access, a police spokesperson defended the decision, saying that the media coverage was “causing excitement on the side of the defendant".
In response to these incidents, Ugandan journalists announced that they would consider boycotting cases with a police presence, as a form of protest.
Court declines to dismiss charges against activist
Buganda Road Chief Magistrates’ Court has declined to dismiss charges (Libel and Offensive Communication) against controversial Makerere University Senior Researcher Dr. Stella Nyanzi, in which she is charged with calling President Yoweri Museveni a “Pair of Buttocks”#Uganda pic.twitter.com/1NFwhWGHfJ— Kampala Dispatch (@dispatchug) March 7, 2018
In March 2018, Chief Magistrate James Eremye Mawanda declined human rights activist Stella Nyanzi's petition to dismiss the criminal charges against her.
Ugandan academic and feminist activist Stella Nyanzi was charged in March 2017 under the Computer Misuse Act based on her social media statements, including one where she referred to President Yoweri Museveni as “a pair of buttocks”. She denies any wrongdoing and was released on bail on 10th May 2017.
In October 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found her detention to be arbitrary on the basis that her initial arrest and detention lacked a legal justification and that there were violations of the right to a fair trial.
There are also fears that she could be sent to a psychiatric ward as the state has also made a request to ascertain her mental condition under the Mental Treatment Act. Nyazi filed a petition in May 2017 with the Constitutional Court challenging the provisions of the Mental Treatment Act under which the prosecution sought a mental health examination.
Nyanzi remains indefinitely suspended from her position at Makerere University because of the ongoing criminal charges against her.
Authorities drop charges against musician
The Director of Public Prosecution hs discontinued charges of offensive communication against local artists accused of frustrating the peace of President Museveni.— Talent Ahereza🇺🇬 (@TalentAhereza) April 13, 2018
Mr David Mugema, 31, ws facing 1count of offensive communication alongside his music producer Jonah Muwanguzi, 23. pic.twitter.com/7ODpfGAIMm
On 13th April, the authorities dropped charges of “disturbing the peace of the president and offensive communication” against the artist David Mugema and producer John Muwanguzi. The charged had been made initially over a song they had written called "Mzei Wumula", which translates to "Old man take a break".
The song allegedly calls for President Yoweri Museveni to retire. Prosecutors had asserted that the song "attacked and disturbed the peace" of Museveni, who has been in power for more than three decades.
Proposed taxation on social media use
In a letter to the Minister of Finance dated 12th March 2018, President Yoweri Museveni announced a planned daily tax of 200 Ugandan shillings (approximately 0.05 USD) for using social media channels on mobile devices. The tax would supposedly keep users from “rumour mongering”.
While Finance Minister Matia Kasaija defended the plan as a way to raise much-needed revenue, human rights activists have denounced it as part of wider attempt to curtail freedom of expression. Ugandan authorities blocked access to social media channels twice during the 2016 electoral cycle.