In a Police Circular of 16th May 2018, the Inspector General of the Police Okoth Ochola has ordered a shift of policy towards the media. This is a change, but if we only see it on paper or in reality. Time will tell, because the laws that the Police use are still the same, they still have the Public Order Management Act (POMA), which has been used as a tool to oppress and silence opposition. Where the Police has interfered in journalistic endevours and political party works all across the Republic. All of that is well-known, as the Police needs to engage and give consent if anyone is gathering. That is so they can either stop it before it happens or have knowledge of any activity of any party, that is happening in public.
What is key from the message from the IGP was this:
“Unit commanders must observe the safety of journalists very critically and no journalist or citizen should ever be abused or tortured. Torture is a criminal offence according to the law and whoever will be found to be involved in the crime shall be expeditiously investigated and prosecuted. The constitution calls upon us all to preserve, protect and promote media freedoms” (IGP Okoth Ochola, 16.05.2018).
CEON-U reported this from the General Election and Campaigning in 2016:
“At the (media content) producer level, journalists reported pressure from government, security and ruling party officials, which sometimes saw the cancellation of critical radio programmes as well as suspension of presenters and talk show hosts for entertaining opposition candidates, especially Besigye. There were also increased cases of assaults and intimidation of journalists, self-censorship, and bribery” (CEON-U – ‘UGANDA GENERAL ELECTIONS 2016: REVISITING THE DEMOCRACY CONSTRUCT’ P:76, 2016).
It is not long ago, when Besigye was planning to hold a Radio Tour all-around Uganda, but the State sanctioned the radios holding him, but at the same period in time, the President could do the same and on the same topic, as Besigye was planning too. It is not many months ago. Therefore, the state is continuing to oppress and silence the other voices, than of the President.
Museveni likes to own the media, own the message and control it, therefore, he has lecture anyone to follow his voice and pattern, not question it, because then your not patriotic. That is what is well-known, so it is good idea that the Police are supposed to respect the covering of the journalists and their work. However, if they start to be to critical or get sources, which is questioning the Musevenisms, then know they will be besieged, be detained and lose their license. That is what Museveni does, so even if the journalist wouldn’t be arrested while on Live-Broadcast, like the police did in Kasangati in the recent year. Still, the NRM and Uganda Police Force has a long walk ahead.
It is nice that the IGP wants things to change, but they should also abolish POMA, so people are allowed to participate and be political active, without having the police breathing down their necks or coming with tear-gas, every time they congregate. This will certainly his a journalist, a camera-man or anyone covering it. They will not be totally shielded, I doubt the Police would do so. They usually cover all angles and anyone in the nearby passage get touched.
The Police can order and say they will leave the journalists be, but will they really follow through, when there are laws like the POMA in affect. That will not change the dynamics, unless, the Parliament makes other laws, that gives the provisions to the Police to act differently. Peace.
Here is the circular: