Freedom House Condemns Crackdown on Journalists, Social Media in Uganda | Freedom House

Freedom House Condemns Crackdown on Journalists, Social Media in Uganda

Washington

Freedom House strongly condemns the crackdown on journalists and blocking of access to social media sites by the Ugandan government during recent unrest.  Ugandan authorities should use restraint against protesters and ensure the rights of journalists, and all Ugandan citizens, to freedom of expression.
 
Attacks on peaceful protesters have reportedly left at least four dead and eight journalists injured amid the government’s attempts to block physical and virtual access to a “walk to work” campaign, which has rallied thousands of citizens to protest rising food and fuel prices.  Security forces have responded to the demonstrations with tear gasand live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators. Prominent opposition leader Kizza Besigye, one of the organizers of the protest, has been arrested three times since “walk to work” began and was denied bail after the latest arrest on Wednesday. On April 14th, the head of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered internet providers to block access to the two most popular social media websites, Facebook and Twitter, claiming that protesters were using those two platforms to incite violence.
 
“These restrictions on access to information and on-the-ground coverage of a peaceful protest movement are deeply disturbing and reflect a flagrant disregard by the Ugandan government for the safety of its citizens and its journalists,” said Courtney C. Radsch, freedom of expression officer at Freedom House. “Uganda should immediately lift restrictions on access, both in the physical realm as well as online, and ensure that the attacks on journalists do not occur with impunity.”
 
Journalists have been prohibited from entering hospitals and other areas where the major clashes are taking place, preventing an accurate count on those dead and injured. Uganda was also recently criticized for prosecuting critical journalists under accusations such as treasonor spreading false news, and a joint freedom of expression mission last September found that violence against journalists and impunity issues severely challenged the space for free expression.
 
Uganda is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
For more information on Uganda, visit:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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