Several Ugandan human rights defenders were arrested Thursday while protesting a recent spate of crackdowns on media outlets. On Monday, the government raided two Ugandan newspapers, the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper, locked journalists out, and shut down two radio stations.
Daily Monitor is Uganda's most-read independent paper, and the crackdown came immediately after the outlets reported on allegations that President Museveni is grooming his son to take over his position as president.
A peaceful demonstration of approximately 20 people from many civil society organisations was held at the Daily Monitor building on Thursday, May 23 to protest the crackdown. Police officers in riot gear broke up the march and arrested 5 attendees.
Richard Lusimbo was one of those arrested and was subsequently charged with unlawful assembly before being released on bond.
"Freedom of expression is a necessity for a functioning democracy," said Richard Lusimbo. "As concerned citizens we are united against what is happening to the media. You can't stop journalists from publishing the news - it's for the public. Without news, the people have no voice."
"This situation shows the very real threat of a weakening democracy in Uganda," said Andre Banks, Executive Director and Co-founder of All Out. "Free and fair press are the backbone of democracy and any attempt to quash freedom of speech or freedom to assemble is never in the interest of the citizens - only of those in power."
"All Out has consistently spoken out to protect the freedom of speech, press and assembly for human rights activists all over the world," Andre Banks said. "While Thursday's activities do not have a direct connection to the ongoing campaign to block the country's infamous kill the gays bill, All Out recognizes the special threat faced by all minority groups when essential rights are eroded by government overreach and corruption."
The occupation of media houses by Ugandan police continues. Mr. Lusimbo is required to report to the police Friday morning.