Human Rights Defenders continue to face clamp downs by state actors or other perpetrators during the course of their work. This is more prone with Journalists covering sensitive stories, individual HRDs who blow the whistle or bring to the spotlight controversial governance issues. In the recent past, in Uganda we have seen journalists arrested and imprisoned in unknown places. Most recent being the arrest of a Top Radio Journalist on November 26th, 2013 for hosting the deputy mayor of Kampala. He was detained without charge with two other journalists of the same station (http://www.hrnjuganda.org/alerts&stories_full.php?full=102). These trends are worrying and as such an application has been developed to give some level of security to Journalists at the frontlines as we lead up to the 2015 early campaigns. This application is called the Panic Button.
As part of the PANIC Button Project, Amnesty International in partnership with the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and the National Coalition of human rights defenders Uganda is training various individuals/organisations as panic button pilot users. Each of these individuals is availed with a handset to enable them use the application and give feedback in the pilot phase on how applicable and useful it is to them. Importantly how it can be improved to suit their contexts, and this will go on for a pilot phase of 6 months.
Today at the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Secretariat, we hosted Ms. Halima Athmani a journalist with Ugandan Radio Network for an introductory training in use of the Panic Button. As a team at the secretariat , we ran her through the basics and practical aspects of using the application.
“I think this application is a great innovation especially for me as a journalist who during certain moments is at risk of being arrested while covering protests in Uganda. So am certain this application in times of distress shall act as my rescue button or lead to my rescue!” Halima Athmani
We hope this application will go along way to enhance the response accorded to HRDs at most risk. We will be engaging with another batch of HRDs for this pilot phase.