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Punitive state retaliation against protestors while popular online presence attracts financial penalty in Uganda (Demo)

A vigorous campaign for the release of Nigerian journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner Omoyele Sowore was bolstered through a letter submitted to the African Union Special Rapporteur, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN Special Rapporteurs by 48 human rights and press freedom organisations.

The organisations are requesting the AU and UN work through their mechanisms to secure the immediate release of Sowore and declare his arrest and prolonged detention a violation of his human rights.

The Department of State Security (DSS) arrested Sowore two days before a planned protest dubbed #RevolutionNow and charged him with treason. The #RevolutionNow demonstration, which went ahead as planned, was organised to protest rampant corruption and misrule by the country’s leadership.

Organisations reacted immediately to his arrest – primarily on social media, followed by statements condemning his arrest, arbitrary detention, and the charges of treason brought against him.

In his statement, Nobel Laureate and world renowned author Wole Soyinka highlighted: “Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much misused and misunderstood the word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of the government.”

IFEX members also added their reproaches. The International Press Centre (IPC) criticised authorities for the assaults and arrests of journalists covering the #RevolutionNow protests. Media Rights Agenda (MRA) condemned the arrest and continued detention of journalist Ibrahim Dan Halilu and the pressure put on him to sign a statement connecting him to the #RevolutionNow protests. The Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA) expressed its concern at the clampdown on dissension in Nigeria and called on authorities to demonstrate their commitment to “freedom of expression as enshrined in the country’s constitution.”  

According to the Human Rights Watch report: “Amnesty International has been placed on a security watch list from 1 August for allegedly reproducing a message by the organizers of the #RevolutionNow protests in a tweet.”

During her visit to Nigeria to assess violations of the right to life, Dr Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions met the executive director of MRA, Edetaen Ojo. 

Tanzania’s deteriorating human rights situation

In a case that has taken many twists and turns, Tanzanian journalist Erick Kabendera remains in detention, with his hearing rescheduled for the third time, to 12 September. His prolonged incarceration has had a damaging impact on his health and his lawyers are requesting he receive urgent medical attention.

He was first questioned over his citizenship status – a ploy often used by Tanzanian authorities to undermine journalists and the media in general. A few days later he was charged with sedition under cybercrime laws, but authorities then morphed this to the more serious charges of organised crime, tax evasion and money laundering

Jones Sendodo, one of the lawyers representing Kabendera told the Committee to Protect Journalists “that under Tanzania’s Criminal Procedure Act, people accused of money laundering do not qualify for bail and he could remain in detention for the duration of his trial.”

Speaking at a workshop several years ago, the well-known investigative journalist and strong media freedom and freedom of expression advocate expressed his concern at the regulation of the digital space in Tanzania and the safety of citizens proferring dissenting views. 


Another journalist, Joseph Gandye, was arrested on 22 August, just days after Tanzania hosted the Southern African Development Community (SADC) 39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State meeting in Dar es Salaam. Prior to his arrest, Gandye, was investigating allegations of torture, ill-treatment and sexual abuse by the Tanzanian police.

Gandye, who is the associate head and production editor of Watetezi TV, an online media organization owned by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), is being charged with publishing false information. 

Liberian women stage sit-in protest

Women in Liberia staged a sit in protest on 21 August, outside President George Weah’s office in central Monrovia. The three-day sit in action was a peaceful protest against political violence prior to a by-election in Montserrado District #15, during which one of the female legislative candidates, Telia Urey, was attacked.

Representatives of the United Nations and the Office of the ECOWAS Commission based in Liberia issued a joint statement condemning the violence, and subsequently requested the authorities to carry out a prompt and impartial investigation.

Protests prohibited in Zimbabwe 

In their review of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s one-year anniversary at Zimbabwe’s helm, Amnesty International highlighted the “systematic and brutal crackdown on human rights, including the violent suppression of protests and a witch-hunt against anyone who dared challenge his government.”

The analysis came exactly 10 days after a planned protest in Harare by the main opposition party – the Movement for Democratic Change – was prohibited. 

The series of consecutively scheduled protests across the country were planned to highlight the challenges faced by Zimbabweans contending with 12 to 18 hour daily power cuts, critical petrol and diesel shortages, deteriorating service delivery systems, cash shortages, closure of businesses and rising costs against fixed incomes. 

Demonstrators who had assembled at the designated point before receiving the news that the MDC had called off the demonstration were violently dispersed by the police. 

A few days before the scheduled protests, six pro-democracy campaigners were taken from their homes by masked men, interrogated, tortured, and dumped in secluded areas.  A week later social media was abuzz with news of the abduction of comedian Samantha Kureya – or Gonyeti, as she is more popularly known.

Kureya, who is famous for her satirical skits on topical and contentious issues, was abducted, stripped, assaulted and forced to drink sewer water.

In brief

Ugandan content creators and influencers with a large following on social media will now be required to register and pay an annual registration fee of US$20. The Uganda Communications Commission enforced this requirement through an amendment to the Uganda Communications Act 2013 which parliament passed on 6 April 2017.

In narrating her lived experience at the receiving end of cyber-misogynistic attacks, highly respected and award winning journalist Ferial Haffajee provides an insight into the intense impact of these online attacks on courageous and professional journalists. 

Ugandan student Hillary Innocent Seguya Taylor is legally challenging President Yoweri Museveni, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, and Chief Political Commissar of the police, Mr Asan Kasingye, for blocking him from accessing their Twitter handles.

Journalist Felia Russel Ocloo was attacked by members of the Ghanian church group, Glorious Wave International while covering a protest against the church’s head pastor, Prophet Badu Kobi.

Twenty journalists including a pregnant reporter were attacked by cronies of a member of Nigeria’s State Assembly. 

News weekly The Manager Horizon is being repeatedly threatened with closure by Congo-Brazzaville’s media regulator, the Superior Council for Freedom of Communication, following its coverage of alleged mismanagement at a state agency.

A report published by Journalist in Danger (JED) and supported by African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) highlights the lack of action by President Felix Tshisekedi’s government in strengthening media freedom and protection of journalists in DRC.

Diallo Soulemane, the owner of Conakry-based private radio station Lynx FM, and the presenter of Oeil de Lynx in Guinea Aboubacar Algassimou Diallo, are facing prosecution following a phone interview with Sanoh Dossou Conde, an outspoken critic of the government based in the United States.

The post Punitive state retaliation against protestors while popular online presence attracts financial penalty in Uganda appeared first on IFEX.


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