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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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South Africa Expects First Vaccine Doses Next Week

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South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said the country is expected to receive one million COVID-19 vaccine doses from India on Monday

Mkhize said the AstraZeneca doses would undergo technical processes on arrival, including quality assurance, adding that “these processes will take a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 14 days to complete, upon which we will be ready to distribute the vaccines to all provinces.”

The country which remains the most infected with COVID-19 in Africa is also expecting an additional 500,000 doses in February and a further 20 million doses procured for June as it continues to battle a highly infectious new mutation of the virus that has led to a surge in new infections.

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Baby Vaccination Drops In Rwanda Amid Lockdown

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Baby vaccination rate is of concern to Rwandan authorities.  The Rwanda biomedical center says it expects to vaccinate 360,000 babies every year with their first shot, but the number has dropped in Kigali during the total lockdown.

Some mothers in Kigali city say they cannot miss their babies’ vaccination schedules despite the city currently being in total lockdown.

At a vaccination exercise in Kigali on Monday, not all who were supposed to bring their babies for the vaccination showed up, thinking the medical personnel would not be available because of the lockdown.

The Rwanda biomedical center says the government spends $10 million annually to provide babies with no cost vaccinations.

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Tunisian Protesters Marching To Parliament Blocked

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Hundreds of Tunisians have taken to the streets in renewed protests.  The demonstrations first, in the town of Sbeitla were triggered by reports that an injured young man during last week’s clashes, Haykel Rachdi, had died. The man’s family said he was hit by a tear gas canister.

He had joined nationwide protests to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, which ushered in democracy and triggered the Arab spring uprisings across the region.

Soldiers were deployed to government buildings in the town after protesters tried to storm the police station.

On Tuesday, Tunisian police blocked the path of hundreds of protestors who were trying to reach the parliament building in the capital, Tunis.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have been fueled by frustration at the lack of jobs and spiraling prices.

More than one thousand young protesters had been arrested during the previous protests, and many of the protesters on Tuesday were calling for their release.

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