By Frank Kamuntu
Kampala: In a presser held last week at Police headquarters Naguru, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola warned that security agencies will continue to mercilessly beat journalists in a bid to ‘deter’ them from going where there is danger.
In a joint statement released this afternoon at Imperial Royale by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), Independent On-line Journalists Association-Uganda (indoja-u) and Editors’ guild, Ochola’s words have now set up overzealous police and security agents against media practitioners hiding under the plausible argument of protecting journalists.
The trio added that Ochola will be held solely responsible for any attacks on journalists covering elections, and will be individually held reliable for inciting violence against journalists by the police and its sister security agencies.
“Ochola has been silent, some of us actually though he was silent because probably as a professional police man he wasn’t comfortable with was going on,but we were shocked that when he decided to speak,he uttered such terrible words. Now it looks like he was better off to remain silent,” Andrew Irumba, President Indoja-u added.
Read The Joint Statement In Full Below;
“IGP Pronouncements To Beat Journalists;
On Friday 8th January 2021, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Martin Okoth Ochola revealed that the police has been beating journalists to restrain them from going where there is the danger with the aim of ensuring their ‘safety’. The unapologetic IGP made these deafening remarks during a press briefing at the police headquarters in Naguru, Kampala.
The statements by Mr. Ochola cannot be taken lightly, given the fact that the police has been the
leading violator of media rights according to the HRNJ-Uganda Press Freedom Index Reports
from 2009 to date. Such statements are setting up overzealous police and security agents against
media practitioners hiding under the plausible argument of protecting journalists.
Therefore, Mr. Ochola should not attack the messenger, but rather move fast to restrain his officers from acting unprofessionally and arbitrarily. The IGP should work to create an environment which promotes mutual cooperation rather than resorting to confrontation. It is the constitutional obligation of the police to ensure that Ugandans and journalists enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms.
We will hold the IGP, Mr. Ochola solely responsible for any attacks on journalists covering elections, and will be individually held reliable for inciting violence against journalists by the police and its sister security agencies while in the line of duty we insist that Mr. Ochola should withdraw these unfortunate statements, or be compelled to do so to prevent the resultant mob justice (injustice) on journalists and other Ugandans by the police and its sister security agencies.
Ban Of Cameras & Phones;
We are also grossly concerned by the recently released guidelines by the Electoral Commission where phones and cameras are banned at polling stations across the country on voting day.
While we appreciate the Electoral Commission’s efforts to protect the privacy of voters who wish to vote in secrecy, we are inclined to believe that the same directives may be misinterpreted by security operatives while enforcing them. As such, we risk having journalists whose cardinal role is to inform members of the public about events as they unfold turned away from polling stations or having their gadgets destroyed under the guise of implementing the directives.
The Electoral Commission should therefore clarify on the ban specifically in regard to journalists whose main tool of the trade is the camera but also bearing in mind the central role the media plays in electoral democracy and the right to access information as enshrined under Article 41 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
Accreditation Of Journalists To Cover Elections;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has severally pointed out that the move at this critical time of covering elections is very unfortunate in terms of timing and spirit, only seen as intended to curtail journalists covering elections. No wonder very few journalists have been able to heed this directive.
The Press and Journalist Act, 1995 clearly spells out the regular flow of events leading to the final registration of journalists. The composition of the media council is questionable and in the absence of the National Institute of Journalists in Uganda (NIJU) makes the registration of journalists invalid and we (HRNJ-Uganda, EAMI and CEPIL) challenged the several provisions of the Press and Journalists Act Cap.105 in the constitutional court in 2014.
We would like to commend all journalists, media houses, media development organisations and other actors who have expressed serious concern over this process. We want to single out the editors under their umbrella body the Uganda Editors’ Guild, Center for Public Interest Law and the East African Media Institute (EAMI) who have challenged this process in court.
We also wish to inform members of the public that while the cardinal role of the media is to disseminate information, this has been hindered by the authorities that be and as such the media will not be able to fully exercise their mandate as expected during this election period if the status quo is maintained.
For God and My Country.”