U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, issued the following statement Tuesday condemning the Ugandan government's raids last month and extended closure of four independent media outlets. After being shut down by government forces for 10 days, the four outlets were permitted to reopen under the condition that they apologize for recent reports critical of the government, and refrain from publishing stories the government might find offensive in the future.
"A free, fair, and independent press is a hallmark of open societies, and particularly of democracies. Uganda is an important strategic partner for the United States and we value its leadership in combatting terrorism and promoting stability in the region. I visited Uganda last year, and was struck by how much has been accomplished in the face of very real challenges. However, I also returned concerned about the trajectory of Uganda's democracy -- a concern heightened by the events of the past few weeks. The Ugandan government's recent actions against independent media outlets are deeply disconcerting, and just the latest in a worrying trend of shrinking political space and decreasing tolerance for dissenting views.
"In the interest of the democratic stability in Ugandan and the universal values of free speech and expression, I urge the Obama Administration to take a strong stance against this trend. I also encourage the Ugandan government to refrain from placing restrictions on news organizations, limiting dialogue and undermining public confidence in the strength of its own constitution."