Journalists covering the 2021 elections in Uganda operated in fear occasioned by brutal arrests and assault, according to a new research report by the Media and Democracy Initiative Africa (MEDIA).
Titled “Exploring Public-private Strategies to End Electoral Violence against Journalists in Uganda”, the research reveals that journalists were caught up in running battles as police and the army blocked most of the opposition rallies in ostensible efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. “Excessive force was applied and no specific efforts were made to ensure the safety of journalists”, adds the research, which was supported by the International Center for Not-for-profit Law (ICNL).
Consequently, a number of journalists were injured and detained while covering opposition rallies and the ensuing protests.
The report also faults government for intimidating some broadcast houses against hosting opposition politicians.
The report documents various forms of abuses Ugandan journalists suffered between September and December 2020, a period characterized by heightened electoral activity. During the period under study, a total of 69 cases of violence against journalists were reported.
Uganda Police emerged the top single violator of journalists’ rights perpetrating 47 cases, thus accounting for over 65% of all violations. Major forms of violence by police included beating, hitting by teargas canisters and rubber bullets, brutal arrests and detention beyond mandatory duration. The military accounted for 14 cases, followed by RDCs with 5 cases, members of the public: 2 regulator UCC:1.
The research is part of the ICNL-funded project, which culminated into the publication of the Policy Brief on Media and Election-Related Violence in Uganda and the Safety Guidebook for Journalists Covering Elections in Uganda.
police arrest radio one journalist, Saif-llah Ashraf NTV’s Ali Mivule after being
hit by a teargas canister