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Report indicates growing impunity in cases of attacks on journalists

UPDATE: Ugandan government non-compliant to freedom of expression recommendations (HRNJ-Uganda, 21 August 2012)

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 27 July 2012 - A mid-year report released by the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has indicated that the environment for frontline journalists is getting more risky at the hands of the security agencies, especially the police.

HRNJ-Uganda has recorded 50 attacks on journalists in the past seven months alone compared to 107 cases documented in the whole of 2011. The Uganda Police continue to lead the list of attackers, with 26 cases, followed by State House operatives, with seven cases. Unfortunately, the Judiciary, which is supposed to be the custodian of justice, was among the violators, with five cases documented.

Of the 26 cases in which police were implicated, no disciplinary action has been taken against any of the errant officers in spite of the fact that the cases were always drawn to the attention of high level police authorities. Neither have there been any conclusive investigations. The police have instead resorted to suspicious disguised compensation of their victims. HRNJ-Uganda has therefore observed that impunity continues to be on the rise.

Other sources of attacks included faith-based organisations, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF), an education institution, a cabinet minister and unidentified armed groups, among others. Physical attacks contributed the highest number of violations, with 19 cases, followed by blocking of access to news scenes, with 12 cases.

Journalists working for the government media are also increasingly being targeted by the police. The government-owned Vision Group of companies, which is a consortium of media houses, experienced the most attacks, with 25 cases. And international correspondents have not been spared.

The attacks were spread throughout the country, with Kampala district recording the highest number of cases at 19, Wakiso eight, Kayunga seven, and Mukono and Entebbe four respectively. Other areas that recorded attacks included Lugazi, Ntungamo, Lira, Pader, Teso, Kasese and Kaliisizo

Attacks ranged from arrests and detentions, to beatings, blocking of access to news scenes, confiscation and malicious damage to property and deletion of recorded materials, among others. Male journalists were most often attacked, with 45 cases, compared to five female journalists.

"This is a very worrying trend, to have such a number of attacks against journalists during a time when there are no elections in the country. It is sad that the police have promoted impunity by covering up for the force's errant officers rather than reprimanding them. We call upon the police leadership to investigate these cases and the implicated officers and take punitive action," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

Read the entire report

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