Peter Waldron and Journalists in Uganda

This is a month late, but it passed me by at the time. Human Rights Watch has a significant report from Uganda:

The Ugandan government’s expulsion of a foreign journalist is the latest example of a crackdown on independent media that predates recent elections, Human Rights Watch said. At least three local journalists also face serious criminal charges on account of their work.

The journalist was Blake Lambert, a Canadian freelance reporter (whose articles as it happens include contributions to Killing the Buddha):

The government said Lambert posed a security threat, but did not explain how or cite any of his articles as posing a danger.

…In mid 2005, the government formed a new body, the Media Centre, which vetted foreign journalists, including those already accredited by the official Media Council. Local media groups complained that the government had created the new body to filter out journalists whose reporting it did not like. In addition to refusing to renew Lambert’s credentials, the new Media Centre reduced to four months the year-long accreditation held by Will Ross of the BBC.

This is of interest to us as it provides a bit of extra context to the recent abortive arrest and expulsion Peter Waldron, the evangelist and businessman who has been a subject of this blog several times in the last few weeks. Curiously, Waldron didn’t get a mention in the HRW report; however, pressures on local journalists are usefully rounded-up:

On December 13, 2005, after the start of the election campaign, the state brought criminal charges of promoting sectarianism against editor James Tumusiime and reporter Semujju Ibrahim Nganda of the privately owned Weekly Observer. They face up to five years in prison. The paper had reported accusations from the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that the president and top military officials were persecuting its presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, on ethnic grounds.

On February 1, the Ugandan army raided the Unity FM radio station in Lira, northern Uganda, and arrested station manager Jimmy Onapa Uhuru, journalist Paul Odonga and two others after the station reported that the government was busing people into the region to boost numbers at a rally for President Museveni…

HRW also provides a number of other examples. Waldron maintains that his arrest had been due to his reporting on riots in Uganda; one of the charges laid against him (besides having illegal guns which he says were planted by police) was that he had “defamed” Uganda.