Authorities in Uganda have stepped up harassment and intimidation of independent journalists in the run-up to this month’s election as President Yoweri Museveni seeks to extend his 30-year rule, a press freedom campaigner said on Tuesday. Robert Ssempala, national coordinator for Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, (HRNJ-U), told Reuters the government was applying special pressure on journalists in rural areas on which Museveni, 71, depends for much of his support. Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, is running against veteran opposition figure Kizza Besigye and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi on Feb. 18 in what analysts say could be his toughest challenge.
His critics have long accused him of employing tactics including vote-rigging, tight control of the press and violence by the security agencies to secure electoral victories. The government denies these charges.
“I see an escalation of attacks and intimidation, harassment of … free, independent and critical media. It’s about political survival,” Ssempala said in an interview.