The European Union (EU) delegation to Uganda has expressed concern about situations of arrest and assault of journalists implicating security personnel that rarely progress to prosecution.
Nicolaj Petersen, the Danish ambassador to Uganda aired the EU’s concern while delivering a speech at the Uganda Editors’ Guild’s commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day 2021.
Ambassador Petersen represented the EU delegation as guest speaker at the event celebrated under the theme “Information As a Public Good.”
“As the EU, we are particularly concerned about situations implicating security personnel. Unfortunately, it appears that many violations by security forces rarely progress to prosecution even when reported, this can create a climate of impunity,” said the ambassador.
Quoting the recently released 2020 Press Freedom Index by the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), Petersen said that media practitioners found difficulty while executing their work, especially during the campaign period.
“The report states that journalists were arbitrarily arrested and assaulted by security agencies. This prevented them from covering some of the sensitive issues and events that were relevant to the people of Uganda,” he said.
The EU called upon the respective security agencies to respect and promote media freedoms by avoiding unwarranted interference with impartial and credible reporting.
Petersen also said that much more needs to be done regarding the relationship between security personnel and journalists beyond the recent engagement between the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
The Ambassador equally said that it is essential for media practitioners to be professional in their work and to harmonize safety mechanisms.
Petersen added that this year’s press freedom theme provides a platform to inform citizens about the fundamental issues concerning press freedoms and an opportunity to put the spotlight on critical challenges, threats and violence against journalists.
He also said that it is a good occasion to engage in dialogue with the government and remind them of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good.”
“It serves as a call to renew the global commitment to freedom of expression, press freedom and freedom of information. Furthermore, it acknowledges the new economic challenges faced by the media sector and the need for greater transparency and adherence to professional ethics,” Petersen said.
The ambassador says that it is worrying that Uganda is faced with serious challenges especially regarding the enjoyment of press freedoms such as safety for journalists who are sometimes victims of arbitrary arrests and illegal detention.
This he says happens despite a number of enabling laws to protect the freedom of expression and safety for all citizens including journalists.
Meanwhile, Anthony Kujawa, the United States Embassy Spokesperson says that the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day is an occasion to reflect on the state of press freedom all over the world, underscore support for journalists who are often targeted for doing their work.
He equally says that information cannot be consumed as a public good when journalists are jailed, harassed, beaten and even killed for trying to do their job.
Kujawa adds that journalists should be able to carry out their responsibility without fear of violence or retribution because journalism is not a crime. He also notes that the alarming increase of social media and internet restrictions by governments around the world has great implications since the tactics leave the citizens ill or uninformed on public topics.