7th October 2014 is a day everyone anticipates progress in the two civil suits filed against the state for maliciously harassing human rights activists who use the media to promote human rights, good governance and accountability.
High Court in Fort Portal has set 7th October 2014, the hearing date of two civil suits against the Attorney General and Police by Twerwaneho Listeners Club.
The two suits “challenging false imprisonment and malicious prosecution” and ”challenging sustained State actions that undermine freedom of expression, association and Media freedoms” will be coming up for hearing for the first time.
The first case that was filed in the High Court of Uganda at Fort Portal in 2009 shortly after the magistrate’s court had acquitted 6 TLC activists of inciting violence, threatening violence and defamation has been unnecessarily delayed.
The abnormal delays in disposing of court cases and unnecessary adjournments are a major challenge in the pursuit of justice. Prosecution of TLC activists is calculated to create an atmosphere of fear, difficulty and self-censorship.
On 14th January 2008, six TLC activists were arrested, detained for more than 48 hours and charged with inciting violence contrary to s.51 of the Penal Code (amendment) Act, Cap 120 laws of Uganda the offence of spreading harmful propaganda under s.137 of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Act 2005 and defamation under 180 (1) of the Penal Code (amendment) Act Cap 120. This originated from the subsequent radio programs that TLC activists broadcasted condemning the conduct and manner in which investigations in to the attacking and burning of Life Fm transmitter in October 2007 had been conducted. In 2007, two armed Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force Soldiers attached to Tooro Kingdom attacked and burnt down the radio transmitter as punishment to the organizers of the program and proprietor of the radio for hosting the critical Twerwaneho and Nsonga Ha- Nsonga radio talk shows. Instead of prosecuting the arsonist attacker, Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force, they were promoted in rank and redeployed in more comfortable working environment.
The talk shows had faced a lot of pressure from the Tooro Kingdom, the President, Central government, Local ruling party leadership that included the district ruling party chairperson, area member of Parliament for broadcasting and exposing unlawful evictions of people occupying land belonging to the Kingdom of Tooro. Under the 1995 constitution of Uganda, traditional rulers of what were once separate Kingdoms are officially recognized, and while they no longer have political or administrative power they retain certain rights, including possession of land.
This so-called “institutional” land is legally held in trust on behalf of the community, and when the owners wish to sell any of it, long-standing tenants must be given the chance to buy it or be compensated if they have to leave. Interest in the land has grown since it was announced in 2006 that it has oil reserves, and there has been an influx of mining companies and other businesses to the region.
Regardless court rulings and the impending court cases against state, Police, Internal Security Organ, local and national politicians and the Resident District Commissioner have continuously harassed, caused arrests, illegal home and office searches of TLC staff, unlawfully interfered to control TLC radio talk shows and occasional caused their suspension.
With Support from Media Legal Defense Initiative, TLC filed the latest civil suit in September 2013 to ensure the rights and work of TLC activists as HRDs are defended, respected and promoted.
TLC has in the past used courts of law to challenge unlawful actions of state agents targeting Human Rights Defenders work. In 2008, with support from Media Legal Defense Initiative, Front Line Defenders and East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, TLC successfully challenged in the High Court of Uganda at Fort Portal the unlawful suspension of Twerwaneho and Nsonga Ha Nsonga radio talk shows.
“It’s unfortunate we have been denied justice all this long. However we highly anticipate to progress this time round after unnecessary delays. We want to ensure the existing laws protect us from all forces that are not comfortable with our work” Gerald Kankya who coordinates TLC noted.
For more information, please contact:
Gerald Kankya, Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or +256 782 499 986
Kansiime Evelyn, Advocacy officer at email@example.com or +256 772 086 559