Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has deported three Canadian Journalists who had reportedly come into the country to cover the 2021 elections.
Foreign correspondents Lily Martins and J F Bisson and Margaret Evans had been accredited to work in Uganda, but according to Ofwono Opondo the Director Media Centre, they found their application irregular.
“You don’t apply for tourist visa only to be found working as a journalist. You broke your own terms of stay in Uganda. Nevertheless, you can reapply and will be accredited if you want to work as a journalist in Uganda,” Ofwono commented on twitter.
The deportation of the Foreign correspondents who had apparently been accredited to cover the 2021 elections comes barely a week after government deported heads of United States and European Union funded Non Governmental Organisations while others who were out of the country were barred from returning.
EU head in Uganda Attilio Pacifici confirmed the deportation of Simon Osborn, who was the Country Director of National Democratic Institute (NDI). Others deported include, Isaac Othieno, the Head of a USA based NGO, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
One of the deported Margaret Evans, a CBC Europe Correspondent who is based in London after more than 7 years in the Middle East posted on social media about the deportation of her team. The three were deported on Friday.
“Ugandan Government is avoiding outside scrutiny of January elections already. We were deported Friday even though we had official media credentials. “ Evans says. She adds that the two were detained for 10 hours before being put on a plane.
The Editor in chief of the CBC News Fenlon Brodie condemned the move by Uganda to deport Journalists.
“Freedom of the news media to gather stories and report without harassment or intimidation is a foundational value of democratic societies. This incident with our team is a reminder of how precarious these principles are around the world.” Fenlon posted on social media.
Evans said they were being accused of breaking the law by having arrived in the country on a tourist visa and then performing “business activities”.
“Before entering the country we applied for — and were issued with — accreditation from the Media Council of Uganda,”. She said that they sought advice from the Ugandan High Commission in London and they advised that “we enter Uganda on an ‘ordinary’ or tourist visa. ” She told CBC news.
The Foreign Correspondents Association of Uganda confirmed the deportation of the two but said they were finding out reasons for their deportation. In response to the deportation cry by the foreign journalists however, Ofwono Opondo insisted that Uganda reserves the right to admit foreign persons including Journalists.
“Do we really need you to scrutinize our electoral process to qualify as credible,” Ofwono asked. “Uganda reserves the right to admit foreign persons including journalists. Good stay where you are.”
Asked by URN why the two journalists were deported, Ofwono Opondo said that the two journalists were accredited to cover COVID-19 and Tourism in Bwindi Forest, but were found doing other things unrelated to what they were accredited for.
“They applied for and had been accredited to work on two stories, COVID-19 and Tourism in Bwindi,” Ofwono Opondo said. “However according to Police, they were found doing other things unrelated to the two stories they had applied to cover. They were handed over to Immigration. “
Attempts to get a comment from the Permanent Secretary and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem was futile by Press time.