Freedom of Expression Worsened During COVID 19- Experts

Professor Jjuuko says in the enforcement of COVID 19 regulations, the government adopted a criminal and coercive approach which was not called for.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo launching the report at Mestil Hotel Kampala

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The Government violated rights to freedom of expression and assembly during the COVID 19 lokcdown. This is according to law experts who convened at Mestil Hotel during the launch of a special issue journal on Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Access to Information.

The journal published by Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Center was reviewed by Makerere University law dons Professor Frederick Jjuuko, John Jean Barya and Catherine Anite, the Director of Freedom of Expression Hub.

Professor Jjuuko says in the enforcement of COVID 19 regulations, the government adopted a criminal and coercive approach which was not called for. He says for instance people were imprisoned for making statements that the government said had the potential to spread a contagious disease.

In March, police arrested Pastor Augustine Yiga of Revival Church Kawala, Rubaga Division in Kampala over controversial statements he made in regards to the coronavirus pandemic. The late pastor said coronavirus is non-existent adding it is just simple flu.

Professor Jjuuko agrees with the authors of the journal. He says that the government shouldn't regulate information that is based on reality and facts.

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Barya says COVID 19 advanced the agenda of non-democratic states. He alluded to deaths that occurred as security enforced covid-19 guidelines which he says were non-existent in the first place.

At the height of the lockdown, security personnel were accused of brutality while enforcing the presidential directives. Several people were killed, arrested and injured.

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Professor Barya adds that respect for freedom of Assembly has been abused citing the Electoral Commission’s guidelines on virtual campaigns.

In June, the Electoral Commission banned all mass gatherings as a means of curbing the spread of COVID-19. The commission advised candidates to conduct campaigns on radio and television, in newspapers and on the internet.

Barya says there is no way an election can be conducted within the set rules while respecting the right to freedom of Assembly. He says the government would have declared a State of Emergency and postponed the elections.

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Anite, says that freedom of expression is not an absolute right but argues that limitation to its enjoyment should be precise and clear and clearly state the legitimate purpose.

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The Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo said freedom to enjoy life overrides all other freedoms. He says he would jail 15 people for failing to follow regulations but save thousands of lives.