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Security forces seize Ugandan media outlets

The crackdown on four media houses on 20 May 2013 by security agencies under unclear circumstances is a serious threat to media freedom and freedom of expression in Uganda. The security agencies' actions to deactivate KFM and Dembe FM – and the besieging of Monitor publications and Red Pepper publications – are intended to keep Ugandans ignorant about sensitive governance issues, which are of greater public importance.

On the morning of 20 May, security personnel armed with Kalashnikovs loaded with live ammunitions, cordoned off the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper publications, restricting entry and exit of all employees. At midday, the security personnel proceeded to switch off KFM and Dembe FM radio stations ‐ both housed within Monitor's publication premises. The employees of the Daily Monitor told HRNJ-Uganda that security personnel told them that they had a court order declaring their offices a scene of crime, before they proceeded to search for "documents".

The besieging of Monitor's publications, of Red Pepper and the arbitrary switch-off of two radio stations clearly indicates an orchestrated invasion on free speech and drastically injures the rights to freedom of expression, media and access to information. The effect of these wanton actions does not only affect the media houses, but also ordinary citizens who use these media houses as a platform to exercise their constitutionally granted right to communicate, as well as the right to receive, impart and disseminate information.

Instead of the government facilitating the enjoyment of this freedom, it has facilitated an unjustifiable interference by security operatives who have boldly attacked the media in a bid to curtail press freedom.

These constant attacks on journalists and media houses are in direct contravention of the Constitution of Uganda, and regional and international conventions that Uganda has ratified.

There is a growing concern in Uganda about the narrowing space for journalists and media practitioners to express themselves. The state of press freedom in Uganda continues to remain elusive despite the fact that it is the state's obligation to protect, respect as well as promote it.

HRNJ-Uganda stands in full support of the affected media houses and shall offer all the support it can to the defense of their rights and freedoms. We call upon all friends of the media to join us in this endeavor.

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