The April presidential election and June's parliamentary balloting unleashed a wave of government repression of the press. And journalists' attempts to cover the country's civil war also tested the limits of press freedom in Uganda. In each instance, journalists faced intimidation, harassment, and physical attack. Members of the ruling and opposition parties and rebel groups accused reporters of biased or false reporting, and misrepresentation. President Yoweri Museveni issued a warning that authorities will arrest journalists for "irresponsible reporting" that endangers national security.
Despite the fact that existing sedition laws directly contradict provisions contained in Uganda's constitution, the Supreme Court legally upheld the controversial 1995 conviction of Haruna Kanaabi, editor of The Shariat. The government used its right of censorship, as well as charges of public alarm and civil defamation carrying exorbitant fines, to silence its critics.
Parliament passed an electronic media bill that defines the terms for setting up private radio and television stations. The legislation also calls for the creation of a broadcasting council, comprised of government officials, to monitor programs aired by private broadcasters and censor those that are deemed unacceptable. Parliament is reportedly considering revising the journalists and press statute of 1995, a draconian body of law that monitors the licensing and conduct of journalists and media houses, but there is as yet no indication of the nature of the changes under consideration.
Haruna Kanaabi, The Shariat, LEGAL ACTION
The Uganda High Court rejected Kanaabi's appeal of a sedition conviction. Kanaabi, editor in chief of the weekly Muslim newsletter The Shariat, was arrested on Aug. 25, 1995, for publishing an article called "Rwanda is Now a Ugandan Province," and on Dec. 19, 1995, he was found guilty of sedition and publishing false news. He was released on Dec. 27, 1995, after international pressure. In a 1996 letter to President Yoweri Museveni, CPJ requested that the conviction be overturned.
Peter Busiku, The Uganda Express, LEGAL ACTION
Busiku, editor of the Kampala weekly The Uganda Express, was arrested and charged with publishing "false statements or reports which are likely to cause fear and alarm to the public." The newspaper had published an article called "Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda Plan Assault on Tanzania" in the Nov. 27-Dec. 4 issue. Busiku was remanded to Luzira prison and later released on US$500 bail. He was scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 19.
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