His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni
President of Uganda
4 March 2011
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at a series of attacks on journalists covering recent elections.
According to reports, on 23 February a mob of men armed with sticks and stones attacked six journalists as they attempted to cover ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party candidate Peter Ssematimba casting his vote in local mayoral elections at the Kakeeka polling station in Kampala. Reports claimed that the men, who were believed to be NRM supporters, disrupted the polling to prevent the public from witnessing alleged ballot-rigging favouring Mr Ssematimba.
The journalists attacked were Lydia Nabazziwa and Florence Nabukeera from Bukedde FM, Brian Nsimbe and Nixon Bbaale from Channel 44 TV, Jane Anyango from Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV and Christine Nabatumbwe from Metro FM. All six received hospital treatment for their injuries.
At least 10 journalists have been assaulted since campaigning began in the presidential election last November. Most disturbing is the case of journalist Arafat Nzito of Radio Simba, who was kidnapped and beaten by security agents in Kampala. There have also been numerous reports of journalists facing threats and censorship, including the case of Mustapha Mugisa and Samuel Ssejjaaka from Summit Business Review, who were arrested and detained on 11 January for publishing a cartoon image of Your Excellency on the magazine's cover. We are seriously concerned at what appears to be a state-sponsored campaign of intimidation of critical journalists.
We respectfully remind you that it is the duty of the state to provide an environment in which journalists are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of violence.
We also respectfully remind you that violence towards journalists and censorship violates numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'
We also bring to your attention the Declaration of Table Mountain, endorsed at the 60th World Newspaper Congress and 14th Editors Forum in Cape Town in June 2007. The Declaration calls on African states to promote the highest standards of press freedom, uphold the principles proclaimed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other protocols, and provide constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.
We call on you to ensure that thorough investigations into all attacks on journalists are carried out and that those responsible are quickly brought to justice. We ask you to do everything possible to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of press freedom.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Yours sincerely,
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.