HRW says Uganda media facing pressure ahead of elections

Monitoring group Human Rights Watch says journalists in Uganda face government pressure ahead of presidential elections

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

File photo of a protestor who poses after Ugandan police raided newspaper offices and a radio station.

Government intimidation of journalists and activists in Uganda is having a "chilling effect" on free speech ahead of elections next month, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

"Journalists have been suspended under government pressure, and radio stations threatened for hosting opposition members as guests or when panellists expressed views critical of the ruling party," the US-based rights group said in report released Monday, "Keep the People Uninformed."

Party representatives have also offered "money, trips, and training, in exchange for favourable coverage of the ruling party," the report added.

"How can Uganda hold fair elections if the media and independent groups can't criticise the ruling party or government leaders without fear?" HRW's Maria Burnett said.

Seven opposition candidates are vying to end President Yoweri Museveni's 30-year rule in the February 18 poll and there are fears violence could mar the campaign, with all sides accusing each other of arming militias to press their claims to power.

Museveni, will face his stiffest opposition from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now running for the new Go-Forward party.

All eight candidates are due to hold a live televised debate on January 15.

Museveni, in power since 1986, heading the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), is widely expected to win another five-year term.