Melanie Nathan | Oblogdeeoblogda | May 23, 2013.
Protesting for freedom of the press in Uganda
Today several human rights defenders were arrested outside of the Daily Monitor as they rallied in solidarity against the Ugandan authorities clamp down on freedom of speech of the media. It seems that members of Uganda’s LGBT community have shown their courage, yet again, and this time by standing up for universal principles, a freedom that is not unique to their cause. These arrests came not from seeking to preserve their personal human right to freedom of sexual orientation, but rather the universal principle which impacts all Ugandans, the right to a free press.
We reported earlier this week that the Ugandan police had closed down two Ugandan media outlets – The Daily Monitor and The Red Pepper Tabloid. The police issued a statement saying they had planned to conduct searches, apparently for an original letter, purportedly evidence in a crime, which seems to relate to the recent military controversy involving a Ugandan general. Some believe that the closure was done in retribution and to silence these outlets from reporting on the developments surrounding the issue, rather than to search for the document. The closure was characterized as raids. Both outlets remained closed for several days, amidst an outcry by journalists and human rights defenders. A Court order was obtained ordering the police to reopen the media premises. It was ignored.
Included in the protests were several well known members of the LGBT community. Some of whom, although now protesting in solidarity with the press, had been ill-treated by the Press, including those who had been outed by Red Pepper Tabloid, which had used extremely abusive rhetoric in the outings.
As it happens, the activists from SMUG, who are now defending the right of free speech by press, had recently on May 17th’s International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO,) called upon the Ugandan Press to respect the LGBT community in their reporting:-