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Uganda9 December 2003

New threats to press freedom from censorship and attack on journalist

Reporters Without Borders today condemned renewed threats to press freedom in Uganda, in particular, a physical attack on a radio journalist while she was covering an opposition meeting and a recent ban on reporting the assets of leading government figures.

"The assets of political leaders are a matter of public interest which the press should be free to report, while the attack on a journalist was almost certainly carried out by activists of the ruling party," Reporters Without Borders said.

"We deplore this regression by the Uganda government, which must adopt measures to ensure greater press freedom and to protect journalists," the organisation added.

Hadija Nakitende, a reporter for CBS radio and vice-president of the Association of Ugandan Journalists, was attacked in a Kampala hotel on 7 December while covering a meeting of the Young Ugandan Democrats (YUD), the youth wing of the opposition Democratic Party (DP). Some 15 people suspected of being members of the ruling party burst in, beat Nakitende and other people present, and smashed a camera belonging to the commercial TV channel WBS.

The attorney general meanwhile announced on 10 November that the news media are no longer authorised to publish the declarations of assets and liabilities made by the country’s political leaders. He made the announcement a few days after two leading dailies published details of the assets of several ministers and presidential advisers which they got from the inspector general of government, with whom leading officials have to file their declarations.

This had prompted a formal protest by the vice-president, who said newspapers should not be allowed to publish this information.

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