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Watchdog: Security Forces Target Journalists In Uganda

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A press freedom watchdog says it has documented more than a hundred attacks on journalists in Uganda since November when presidential nominations were held. It says security forces increasingly target journalists as Uganda’s election nears.

Journalists especially those covering opposition candidates and anti-government protests have been arrested, beaten or had their equipment confiscated or destroyed by the police.

National coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) Robert Ssempala, said these have been deliberate attacks where some officers have even warned journalists to shoot at them and have gone ahead to shoot at them occasioning injuries on them. He said this has never happened during an election in Uganda.

Activists say security forces have enjoyed impunity for crimes against journalists.

In December, the government decreed that only journalists accredited by the state-backed media regulator will be allowed to the elections schedule for next week- January 14.

We’ve not had a time as now when the deliberate attacks are not even condemned by the security leadership. The president has severally come out to attack the media as working for foreign agents, as being partisan, as promoting interests of the political opposition in the country, and of course the voice of the president is so strong that it pushes the security forces to act immediately on the journalists.

As Uganda counts down days to its general election, attacks against members of the press by security forces are on the rise.

In December, journalists in Kampala – some wearing bulletproof vests — staged a walkout from a government press conference in protest after two colleagues were shot covering opposition rallies.

One of the victims, Ashraf Kasirye is still recovering in hospital after he was shot in the head with a teargas canister.

“this is not indiscriminate fire,” said the foreign correspondents’ association of Uganda, citing a “consistent pattern of attacks” on media workers by security forces.

The Ugandan telecoms regulator wrote to Youtube’s parent company google in December to request the blocking of wine’s Youtube channel ghetto TV, citing concerns over national security.

Just weeks before the election, meanwhile, foreign reporters have been deported, and press accreditations have been torn up, with all journalists told to reapply.

While there’s a law that mandates media workers to obtain permits from the media council, it has never been enforced until now.

In a message to police commanders across the east African country, the deputy of police said only reporters who present accreditation tags would be allowed to work.

Some journalists have complained that their applications have been rejected even after presenting all the necessary requirements.

The crackdown “exposes an unacceptable willingness to sacrifice the safety of journalists and the public’s right to information for the sake of censoring coverage” of the elections, said Muthoki Mumo from the committee to protect journalists.

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Sierra Leone To ‘Impose Covid Curfew And Travel Ban’

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Sierra Leone government has announced a re-introduction of lockdown on the capital city-Freetown.  Authorities also announced a night-time curfew throughout the country to counter what they call the “exponential” increase of coronavirus cases in the country.

Freetown has recorded more than half of the cases of infections in Sierra Leone.

The new measures, initially set for two weeks, and others made public on Thursday, will begin from Monday.

The government center for response to covid-19 also said in a statement, authorities have decided to restrict entry and exit from the western area, the territory corresponding to Freetown and its surroundings.

Restaurants and bars will have to remain closed on weekends and the wearing of masks remains mandatory in public places.

Sierra Leone has reported 3,081 cases of covid-19 and 77 deaths since march last year.

Travel outside Freetown considered essential is subject to a negative Covid test within 72 hours. An electronic pass will be introduced “to regulate essential movements,” the center said. It will also be accessible through a mobile application.

A curfew will be re-established throughout the country from 22H00 to 5H00 (local and GMT).

“Since December 2020, we observe an exponential increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19, largely due to the holiday season”, explains the government center.

Four out of five (80%) cases of infection were detected during routine testing or in travelers leaving the country. This is “a strong indication of active community transmission,” where the precise source of infection is undetermined, a sign of virus circulation and a complicating factor in the response” the government center said.

The former British colony of 7.5 million people had been hard hit by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which killed nearly 4,000 people in the country between 2014 and 2016. It is still struggling to recover from a civil war that killed some 120,000 people nearly 20 years after the end of the conflict.

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Central African Republic Declares Emergency As Rebels Surround Bangui

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Central African Republic (CAR) has declared a state of emergency for at least fifteen days to combat rebels who have tried to lay siege on the nation`s capital Bangui.

C.A.R. declared the emergency on Thursday to help it crack down on armed groups, after the united nations’ envoy to the country asked the un security council for the deployment of many more peacekeepers or troops in response to a recent surge in attacks.

Authorities say this move will help the government to detain suspects without the authorization of prosecutors.

Rebel factions now control most of the country and are calling for the resignation of president Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the winner of December’s election.

Last week the rebels launched attacks on the capital’s suburbs, but withdrew after an intervention by the un peacekeeping force. The fighting has forced nearly 60,000 persons to flee the country.

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UK Bans Travel From Tanzania And DR Congo Over COVID

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The United Kingdom has banned passengers from two more African countries, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of the Congo from today –Friday, in a move to stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic and the new variant.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said in a tweet on Thursday, all passengers from these countries except British and Irish nationals and third country nationals with residents rights will be denied entry

Shapps said U.K is continuing to monitor COVID-19 rates and new strains of the virus across the globe.  He said this, alongside the suspension of travel corridors and pre-departure testing, will help protect its borders.

Earlier this month passengers from 11 other southern African countries were banned from entering the UK for similar reasons.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Thursday, the continent’s COVID-19 death rate is now higher than the global average. Africa stands at two and a half percent against global average of 2.2%. It listed Democratic Republic of the Congo among 21 African nations with a death rate above 3%.

The authorities in Tanzania have downplayed the extent of the epidemic in the country and have not been releasing any data on infections or deaths.

In June last year, the Tanzanian president John Magufuli declared that the country was “coronavirus-free” thanks to prayers by citizens.

However, the World health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the country’s strategy on COVID-19.

The authorities from Tanzania or the DR Congo have not yet commented on the development.

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