Police and security agents engaged in widespread physical attacks on local and foreign journalists during the general election campaign and its aftermath. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was elected to a fourth term in the February vote, which was marred by reports of intimidation and vote-buying. Reporters covering opposition candidates were at particular risk: Security agents shot two journalists covering opposition or protest rallies, leaving one reporter hospitalized. In April and May, authorities assaulted at least 25 journalists covering nationwide, opposition-organized protests over rising prices. Museveni publicly criticized foreign and local media for their coverage of the protests, saying the reports damaged the country's economic interests. Police raided the independent weekly Gwanga in May and briefly detained four journalists on the tenuous claim that its possession of a civil society newsletter could somehow incite public violence. Gwanga did not resume regular publication.
CPJ research shows police and state security operatives routinely detained journalists for periods ranging from several days to several weeks in an effort to cow the press from reporting on sensitive issues.
Presidential and parliamentary elections in February and a swearing-in ceremony in May were marred by physical attacks on local and international journalists. Further attacks against the press came after opposition party leaders organized nationwide protests, called the Walk to Work campaign. CPJ documented at least 41 attacks.
Breakdown of violence:
23: Attacked while covering election campaign
7: Attacked while covering civil society protests
3: Attacked while covering student protests
8: Attacked at other events
State agents and ruling party officials were responsible for at least 25 physical attacks against journalists in 2011, CPJ research shows. But people suspected to be working for authorities also contributed to anti-press violence, accounting for another 11 assaults, CPJ found.
Breakdown of responsibility:
21: Police and security agents
4: Public officials aligned with the ruling party
11: Suspected ruling party supporters
5: Other individuals
State-run broadcasters devoted the large majority of their election coverage to Museveni, according to a media monitoring survey conducted by the European Commission. Private broadcasters tilted toward the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, but were more even-handed than state media.
How they covered the race, according to the European Commission:
UBC Television (state)
Museveni: 409 minutes / Besigye: 27 minutes
UBC Radio (state)
Museveni: 158 minutes / Besigye: 43 minutes
Museveni: 118 minutes / Besigye: 164 minutes
Museveni: 128 minutes / Besigye: 184 minutes
Simba FM (private)
Museveni: 75 minutes / Besigye: 55 minutes
Museveni: 19 minutes / Besigye: 16 minutes
CPJ research shows the majority of detentions by state security operatives are conducted without formal charge, in apparent disregard of the Ugandan Constitution's 48-hour pre-trial detention limit.