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EU calls for sanctions on perpetrators of attacks on journalists

Ambassador Attilio Pacifici.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Uganda, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici says he has called for sanctions for perpetrators who attack journalists.

Pacifici was speaking during the EU-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) event in commemoration of the International day to end impunity for crimes against journalists. The commemoration was held on Tuesday under the theme, ‘End Impunity, Protect Journalists.”

Ambassador Pacifici says that most of the injustices against journalists have been taken to court but no person is arrested or prosecuted for the crimes.

A recent Press Freedom Index 2020, by the Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists-HRNJ, indicated the Uganda Police Force-UPF and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF as the alleged perpetrators.

The report indicated 174 individual press freedom violations. Ambassador Pacifici says that there is no justification for such treatment of women and men simply trying to do their job, and that journalism is not a crime.

Pacifici describes as sensitive, issues related to media freedom particularly when journalists attempt to cover issues related to politics, security and natural resources.

He adds that the EU delegation in Uganda is prioritizing media freedom and the protection of journalists both through projects they fund and diplomatic engagements with the government and other stakeholders in the country.

“Protecting journalists and therefore enabling the free flow of information and opinion, is one of the vital elements of any successful democratic society. However, in today’s world, being a journalist is not an ordinary job and in some cases it is a profession which comes with very high risks,” said Pacifici.

Pacifici said that Uganda can do a better job in protecting its journalists and also sanction those found to have violated the constitutional rights of journalists.

Rosie Agoi, the Secretary General of the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO said that freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy and sustainable development. She said that without the free flow of information and ideas, the public cannot form opinions and take decisions about issues confronting them in daily living.

Agoi said that it is unfortunate to see journalists targeted for practicing, and that efforts must be made to ensure their safety.

Dr. Emilly Comfort Maractho, the Director Africa Policy Centre at Uganda Christian University, said that journalism matters, because journalists give people information with which to understand the world, and make decisions about their lives.

She also notes that journalists and journalism are visibly under threat, citing censorship, kidnapping, torture and other physical attacks to harassment, particularly in the digital sphere.

“We also know that threats of violence and attacks against journalists, in particular, create a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all citizens,” said Dr. Maractho.

Dr Maractho appealed for the understanding of the freedoms of expression and media, saying that without this understanding and commitment to freedom, it will not be possible to end impunity or protect journalists. She also said that the rapid changes in the industry require regulation tempered by reason and media policy that is positive.

Dr Maractho also underscored the need to strengthen the judicial system and follow the principles of humanity and equal justice.

The former Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said that they take the safety of journalists seriously and that it is unfortunate that the abuses continue.

“There is a problem everywhere that we need to address. Joint training and reviews to appreciate each other’s roles are important.

The International day to end impunity for crimes against journalists was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2013 in recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity. The resolution adopted at its 68th session urged member states to implement measures countering the present culture of impunity.



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