Attacks on journalists are discouraging and should not happen in a democratic society, Danish Ambassador to Uganda Mogens Pedersen has said.
“The intimidation of journalists seems to be on the rise,” the ambassador said in a speech at a gala dinner in Kampala on 20 April 2016 to celebrate the best journalism in Uganda in 2015.
“For instance, between October 2015 and February 2016, 17 journalists were assaulted while covering elections,” Mr Pedersen said, citing a report by Human Rights Network for Journalists, an activist organisation that tracks incidents of abuse against media practitioners in Uganda.
Such abuses saw Uganda drop from position 97 in 2015 to 102 in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2016. In a report, the international charity that fights for freedom of information, says that in Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and Djibouti, “a presidential desire to hold on to power led to pre-election violence against journalists and harsh, government-orchestrated censorship of the media”.
President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was re-elected to another five-year term on 18 February in an electoral process many local and international observers say was characterised by several shortcomings.
Ambassador Pedersen said the recent frequent attacks on journalists in Uganda were “very discouraging”, noting that in a democratic society, freedom of the press “should be respected and even encouraged”.
Hundreds of journalists, civil society actors, diplomats and friends of Ugandan journalism attended the event at the Golf Course Hotel, which marked the third edition of the Uganda National Journalism Awards. The awards are organised by the African Centre for Media Excellence to inspire quality and excellence in local journalism. 64 journalists were recognised on the night.
“We realise that there are still many challenges facing press freedom in Uganda,” said Mr Pedersen, who also is the chair of the board of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), funders of the awards this year.
The DGF is a basket fund that supports both state and non-state partners to strengthen democratisation, protect human rights, improve access to justice, and enhance accountability in Uganda.