ACME statement – Recent arrests are an attack on right to free expression

NEWS RELEASE

29 July 2020, Kampala

African Centre for Media Excellence condemns the spiralling threats to media practitioners and artistes in Uganda. Over the last six days, at least eight people have been arrested, interrogated and/or detained on charges including offensive communication, promoting sectarianism, and inciting violence.

On Thursday, 23 July 2020, security forces arrested Twahir Damulira, the programmes manager and news anchor at Baba FM, for hosting presidential hopeful and Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi on a political show, Council Yaife.

On the same day, musician Gerald Kiweewa was arrested and interrogated. According to Charles Twine, the spokesperson of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Kiweewa is charged with offensive communication following the release of a song that allegedly defames MP and former Minister of State for ICT Aidah Nantaba.

A day later, four Radio Simba presenters (Bizonto)— Julius Sserwanja also known as Kidomoole, Maliseeri Mbabaali (Uncle Luyuguumo), Peter Ssaabakaaki  (Omuzinyuuzi) and Gold Ki Matono aka Opeto — were arrested by armed personnel over a video clip posted on social media in which they satirically urged Ugandans to pray for key leaders holding the country together. Most of the leaders they identified, including President Museveni, are from western or south-western Uganda. They were charged with promoting sectarianism.

On 27 July, veteran journalist and Baba TV political host Basajja Mivule Bwadene was arrested by police. He recorded a statement at the CID headquarters related to inciting the public through his TV shows and promoting sectarianism using his social media pages.

On the same day, comedian Hussein Muyonjo Ibanda aka Swengere, who, following the arrest of Bizonto, posted a satirical video clip saying all top government officials in Uganda are Basoga, was summoned by police in Jinja on charges of inciting violence.

“These arrests are a targetted attack on artistes and media practitioners critical of the government,” said Dr Peter G. Mwesige, the executive director of ACME. “They are intended to intimidate them and silence free expression.”

He added: “We acknowledge that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, and that ‘hate speech’ should not be protected. But we don’t believe the Bizonto and Ibanda comedy extends to a level that justifies curtailing their right to express themselves. ”

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ABOUT AFRICAN CENTRE FOR MEDIA EXCELLENCE: ACME is a Kampala-based independent, non-profit professional organisation committed to excellence in journalism and mass communication in Africa. The organisation fulfils its mandate through refresher training for mid-career journalists; media literacy training for civil society organisations, corporate companies and others; media research; free expression advocacy; and media monitoring. For further information, please contact Dr Peter Mwesige on +256-784-471-527; mwesige[at]acme-ug.org. 

 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

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