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HRNJ-Uganda wins prestigious Astor Award (Demo)

This statement was originally published on the London Evening Post on 15th/April/2016.

By Staff Writer

A Ugandan human rights organisation that has helped many of the country’s journalists fight court cases against the brutality of the Ugandan police and military forces in the country, has won the prestigious Lord Astor Award for services rendered to journalism.

At a dinner held at the Red Fort Restaurant in Soho Square in Central London on Monday to mark the 10thbiennial conference of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), Robert Ssempala the coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) together with Diana Nandudu were recognised for their efforts by the executive director of one of Britain’s leading broadsheets, the Telegraph, Guy Vaughan Black, Baron Black of Brentwood for their role in helping Ugandan journalists currently facing extreme police brutality.

Praising the duo for their role in helping persecuted Ugandan journalists, Lord Black who is also Chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU)’s Media Trust, said: “The battle for freedom of expression is far from won in Uganda, but the dedicated work of HRNJ-Uganda has helped sustain the will to win against fearsome odds.” He added: “To succeed as such an indispensable and unflinching friend of press freedom is the finest tradition of CPU Astor Awards. It’s that triumph which makes the Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda so deserving of this accolade.”

He said attempts to have Ssempala and Nandudu to be presented with the trophy in person had unfortunately been in vain. Last presented 11 years ago, Lord Black said it had been decided to make a new award and was delighted to honour the HRNJ-Uganda with the award as a recognition for their contribution towards the freedom of speech and the press. In their absence, the award was presented to Henry Gombya, Managing Editor of The London Evening Post, himself a longtime campaigner for freedom of the press.

Promising he would make sure the trophy reached the recipients, Dr Gombya thanked Lord Black and his organisation for recognising the wonderful and remarkable work being done by HRNJ-Uganda. He told the audience that the organisation was the only one of its kind operating in the Great Lakes Region and that it had done a remarkable job in helping journalists often caught at the receiving end of brutal police officials. He said HRNJ-Uganda has used the Ugandan constitution effectively in reminding those harassing journalists of the provisions given in the Ugandan constitution for freedom of the press and speech.

The Lord Astor Award is an honour to individual journalists and organisations of the Commonwealth in recognition of their contributions and involvement in advocating press freedom and development. It’s been honoured since 1970 in the memory of Lord William Astor of Hever for his contributions as President of the CPU and his relentless involvement in the development of press freedom. Previously, individuals who have received this prestigious award include: Mabel Strickland of Malta in 1971, Derek Ingram (a founder member of the CJA and current President Emeritus of the association) in 1978, Lyle Turbull (Australia) in 1984, Gilbert Ahnee of Mauritius in 2000, Kuldip Nayar of India in 2003 among others.

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