Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Uganda: Ugandan journalists blocked from reporting at airport


Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda

A number of Ugandan journalists were blocked by security forces from accessing the national airport at Entebbe to cover the return of an army officer, General David Sejusa (formerly Tinyefuza) who sparked off a controversial debate in an alleged ploy dubbed 'The Muhoozi project' in which the president's son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, would ascend to the presidency. However, General Sejusa – who is the coordinator of intelligence services &ndash did not return as expected, due to unknown reasons.

The journalists were blocked from going beyond the security checkpoint, while others were thrown out of the airport and had their gadgets confiscated.

The victim journalists included Ivan Kabaale of NBS television, Isaac Kasamani of the Daily Monitor, Maria Wamala, Godfrey Kimono, Hamuza Nganwa and Mutebi Sulaiman – all from the government-owned Vision Group. Others were Eron Mukama and Morris Ochol of NTV.

Ivan Kabaale told HRNJ-Uganda that a security officer in an army uniform threatened to 'disable' him if he did not leave, “I give you one minute to disappear or I disable you”, he quoted the army officer.

“I managed to go with my video camera beyond the checkpoint up to the VIP lounge, but when the security personnel saw me, they forced me out. They first took away my camera, but handed it back before I got out. While outside, I tried to capture a monument close to the airport, but the security people arrested me, confiscated my video camera, company identity card and cell phone. They drove me in a police van to the Entebbe Police station from where they ordered for my detention till further notice. I was made to sit down and kept there for about four hours. My belongings were returned upon my release, and no charges were preferred against me”, Kabaale told HRNJ -Uganda.

“Security officers in uniform and civilian attire asked me to surrender my camera. They cited 'orders not to let journalists access the
airport'. A security officer from the Special Forces Group (SFG), which is the president's protection force, saw me later and asked where I had been hiding since they were looking for me”, Eron Mukama of NTV told HRNJ-Uganda.

Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told HRNJ-Uganda that she was not aware of any attempts to block the journalists, “…am not actually aware of it, and am only getting it from you.”

She referred HRNJ-Uganda to the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Ebin Ssenkuubi who said that there is a terror threat around town and that could be the reason the journalists were blocked.

“The move by the government to deny journalists access to news scenes is [a] clear violation of the freedom of the media as provided for in the Constitution and other regional and international laws. The government must protect and promote media freedoms and rights which is a tenet of democracy”, said HRNJ-Uganda's national coordinator, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.