UHRC Wants Closed Media Houses Re-opened

2691 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has condemned the police raid and subsequent closure of two media houses, calling it a threat to the enjoyment of media freedoms in the country.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has condemned the police raid and subsequent closure of two media houses, calling it a threat to the enjoyment of media freedoms in the country.
 
The closure of Monitor and Red Pepper Publications entered the third day today as police continue to occupy the two media houses purportedly looking for a copy of a letter written by General David Sejusa. KFM and Dembe FM, the two radio stations owned by Nation Media Group and housed at the Monitor Publications offices in Namuwongo, Kampala, also remain closed.
 
Sejusa, commonly known as Tinyefuza, a decorated General and coordinator of Intelligence Services, is reported to have written a dossier alleging a plan by President Yoweri Museveni to have his son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, take over from him. Sejusa also reportedly asked the Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) to investigate claims that there is a plan to eliminate those opposed to the so-called Muhoozi Project. Muhoozi is now the commander of the powerful Special Forces Command, an elite division of the army that is charged with the protection of the president among other roles.
 
It is the coverage of the now controversial letter that led to the police raid on the media houses.  Police authorities say they will remain at the premises of the media houses until they get the original copy of General Sejusa’s letter.
 
On Wednesday, the acting UHRC Chairperson Stephen Basaliza told journalists that the media in Uganda continues to face challenges in its work especially in exercising the right to freedom of expression without hindrance.
 
Basaliza said in a statement that a free, independent and vibrant media is indispensible in any democratic society. He added that freedom of the press is part of a wider fundamental freedom of speech and expression which underpins all other human rights and democratic freedoms.
 
As such, Basaliza noted, the right to receive and impart information and ideas as a freedom of expression is important for media practitioners to freely express their views without intimidation, violence, censorship or fear of prosecution.  He notes however, that the Commission recognizes the need for the media to act responsibly in the enjoyment of this freedom so as not to violate other people’s human rights, morality and safety. 
 
The statement says press freedoms should be defended as they are the cornerstone in deepening democracy, promoting good governance, defending the rule of law.
 
The Commission treats the closure of media houses as a denial of  information to the public and as such a violation of freedom of press contrary to Article 29(1)(a) of the Constitution and the right to seek, receive and impart information.
 
The Commission further notes that the method of operation and manner in which the media houses were cordoned off breach the fundamental principle of the inalienable right to a fair hearing.
 
The statement adds that the move by police to compel the journalists to reveal their source of information is in contravention of their professional ethical standards.
 
UHRC urges the police to exercise restraint at all times and strictly abide by the provisions of the court order which authorised a search at the media houses.
 
The Commission also asks the Police to expeditiously complete the search exercise so as to allow normality to return in the media houses.
 
The Commission calls on Parliament and other actors to review all media laws so as to improve the media regulatory environment and to expedite the process of expunging from the law books all press laws that have been nullified by the Courts of law.