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Human Rights Activists warn Govt not to crminalise free expression and speech

By Julius Odeke

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is dismayed by government’s effort to criminalise free expression under the guise of enforcing the law against incitement of violence and control of political and media indiscipline.

In a press conference that was held at Hotel Triangle in Kampala on Monday, Geoffrey Ssebaggala says, “We have noted several actions and statements made by government officials that are intended to hold freedom of expression hostage,” adding that, “The state agencies have in the early days of 2013 orchestrated and carried out a systematic clamp down of critical voices.”

Ssebaggala who is the National Coordinator for HRN-Uganda notes that having divergent view from that of government and expressing it openly is becoming risky, notwithstanding that government has a constitutional obligation to respect, fulfill and protect the rights of all Ugandans who want to express themselves irrespective of where they come from or which party they belong to.  He says, “This duty must be performed fully without discrimination.”

He quotes article 20 (2) of the constitution which states that, “The rights and freedoms of the individual and groups enshrined in the chapter IV of the constitution shall be respected, upheld and prompted by all organs and agencies of government and by all persons.

Ssebaggala says, “We have learnt that journalists particularly those hosting political talk-shows and their producers are under pressure from their supervisors not to give platform to Members of Parliament and individuals with views divergent from government. These actors are currently facing threats of closure or revoking of their licenses of their media houses by government. “

He says, “It’s becoming criminal to host or provide a platform to those considered ‘anti, rebel or indiscipline’ politicians with divergent views.  Similarly, it has become unlawful to express your dissent view or opinion in any form and to speak about matters of governance.”

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