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HRW: free association crucial to fair Uganda presidential election

[JURIST] Ugandan authorities are using intimidation and force against journalists, radio hosts and activists, limiting the possibilities that the upcoming presidential election in February is fair and unbiased, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [press release] Sunday. The report [text] claims that journalists have been suspended after publishing views counter to the ruling party and that party representatives have offered radio hosts money, trips and training in exchange for favorable coverage. One reporter told HRW, "I think government intends to keep the people uninformed. You see, uninformed people are easy to manipulate." The report goes on to explain that this emphasis on misinformation has led news services to self-censor themselves, causing a chilling and biased effect on their coverage of political news.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [BBC profile], who has been in power since 1986, is running for president under the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) [party website]. Dr. Kizza Besigye [BBC profile], who has challenged Museveni in the last three elections, is running for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) [party website]. Amama Mbabazi [official website], the former prime minister, has left the NRM and is running under his own party, Go Forward. Last July Ugandan police arrested the two opposition candidates [JURIST report]. Amama Mbabazi was arrested [New Vision report] while campaigning for the NRM and subsequently left the party. Kizza Besigye was also detained [New Vision report] for 24 hours. Besigye has consistently been arrested [Reuters report] for short periods of time by Ugandan police for holding anti-government demonstrations since the 2011 elections. Museveni has been accused of being an authoritarian since he took office by force in 1986, using security forces to retain power. His government has also been criticized for proposing an anti-homosexuality bill, limiting public gatherings and not allowing [JURIST reports] for an independent judiciary.

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