Statement From Northern Uganda Media Club On Police Ordering Journalists Out of Apaa

On Friday May 24, a group of 15 journalists on a reporting trip to Apaa were ordered to leave the location by the Adjumani District Police Commander (DPC) on grounds that they did not have permission to report from the area.

The journalists had traveled to Apaa under the auspices of the Northern Uganda Media Club, a Gulu- based media development organization.

Prior to the trip, NUMEC had written to the Aswa Region Police Commander, the 4th Division Commander, the Gulu Resident District Commissioner, Santos Okot Lapolo, and the Adjumani Resident District Commissioner informing them about the trip by Gulu-based journalists reporting for various local and national media outlets.

At no point in response to our letter did the aforementioned authorities say journalists need permission to access Apaa.  In fact, the Gulu Resident District Commissioner who we had requested to liaise with his Adjumani counterpart said NUMEC didn’t need any permission for the reporting trip.

In the days before the trip, and on the day of the trip, NUMEC also kept in contact with local leaders in Apaa.

We were therefore stunned when police in Apaa stopped the journalists from conducting interviews on grounds that they did not have permission from the DPC Adjumani, who when we eventually reached, ordered the journalists to leave Apaa henceforth.

NUMEC takes strong exception to the flimsy grounds the Adjumani DPC used to order reporters out of Apaa as we are unaware of any legal restrictions on freedom of movement in and out of the area. Secondly, NUMEC had the courtesy of informing the necessary offices including that of the Resident District Commissioner of Adjumani about the trip. Thirdly, Apaa is subject of national interest and as such journalists should have unrestricted access to the location for independent reporting that informs, educates and probes.

We appreciate the sensitivity around the conflict over land in Apaa, but we strongly object to it being used to gag independent journalism.