All aspects of good governance are facilitated by a strong and independent media scape within a society. Unfortunately, independent media in Uganda is in significant jeopardy, genuinely free and independent journalism is under threat. The state deploys a wide range of tactics to stifle critical reporting, from occasional physical violence to threats, harassment, and the blatant use and abuse of courts of law to stifle online freedoms as evidenced from the arrests, and charging of journalists, bloggers and human rights activists for online related offences. The increased use of these tactics threatens to fatally undermine freedom of expression necessary for a democratic society.
But for good governance and human rights to thrive, the independent functioning of the media must be protected and legally defended. With financial support from Media Defense, Unwanted Witness brings justice to persecuted users of digital platforms using two approaches; through Legal Defense and Strategic Litigation. While Legal defense deals with individual criminal and civil deeds, Strategic Litigation addresses State responsibility. States are supposed to guarantee the individual rights of their citizen, including the right to freedom of expression.
- Legal Defense
Unwanted Witness provides legal support:
- To Online journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, citizen journalists, Netizens, photojournalists, cartoonists or fact-checkers – and Independent media who are being persecuted for their online participation, whether under civil, criminal or administrative law.
- To journalists and media who have been threatened, harassed, suffered violence or whose rights have otherwise been violated as a result of or in connection with their journalistic work.
2. Strategic Litigation
Under Strategic litigation, we identify and pursue legal cases as part of a strategy to promote human rights specifically freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas via different online platforms. We focus on individual cases and class suits in order to bring about broader social change. These cases set important legal precedents by publicly exposing injustices, raising awareness and bringing about changes in legislation, policy and practice. Strategic litigation can have a lasting impact on a large number of people at the national, regional or international level.
Unwanted Witness believes that litigating cases that bring justice to only individual victims is not enough to cause impact: to bring about systemic change for all victims of the same crimes, strategic litigations need to be undertaken and this achieves the following objectives:
- Generating reformist jurisprudence by setting innovative legal precedents.
- Guaranteeing that national laws are suitably interpreted and enforced.
- Prompting reforms in national laws, policies and practices going against human rights standards.