Freelance journalist Agatha Atuhaire scoops 2023 EU Rights Defenders Accolade

Kampala -Ugandan Freelance journalist Agather Atuhaire has been named the winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders’ Award 2023.

The award, which was presented during a ceremony on 4th May at the residence of the Netherlands Ambassador in Kampala, is given annually by the European Union and Norway to recognise an outstanding contribution by a human rights defender in Uganda.

Atuhaire was chosen as the winner in recognition of her outstanding recent work to increase transparency in public life, hold public institutions accountable and defend the rights of people who have been affected by corruption and mismanagement in public service.

In the past year, she has effectively used social media platforms to expose mismanagement at the Law Development Centre, to hold to account the National Water and Sewerage Corporation for problems with its billing system and to raise concerns about mismanagement in the Parliament of Uganda.

Receiving the award, Atuhaire said: “it is a great honour to receive this prestigious award. I am grateful to the EU for recognising my work and the work of other human rights defenders in this country. I am grateful to all the human rights defenders out there and to my fellow finalists Richard and Solomon who are also doing incredible work.”

Speaking during the award ceremony, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Uganda Dr. Karin Boven said “Agather is a good example of the role an independent journalist can play in the fight against impunity and corruption.”

Once again, this year the EU and Norway received an overwhelming response to the call for nominations for the HRD Award, highlighting both the range of human rights issues but also the vibrancy of activism in the country.

Atuhaire was chosen as the 2023 winner following a thorough review and shortlisting process involving a panel comprised of representatives of the EU Delegation, EU Member States and Norway.

Renown investigative journalist Solomon Serwanjja was also among those shortlisted for this year’s award.

Serwanjja was nominated for his work in the past year on key human rights issues through investigations and documentaries into labour rights, housing rights and access to basic services, torture and other issues. Much of this work is driven by the African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ), which Serwanjja heads.

Speaking before the award announcement, European Union Ambassador to Uganda His Excellency Jan Sadek said “these leading human rights defenders demonstrate that universal values are not just words that sound nice in a speech, but that they have a real life meaning and can transform people’s lives.”

Background

Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are individuals who, individually or with others, act to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The work of HRDs has a positive impact on a country’s development and is essential for encouraging the respect for human rights as recognised by international human rights standards and agreements. HRDs need to be protected from interference and reprisals while executing their work. The HRDs’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly need to be safeguarded to enable them to defend others.

An individual eligible for the EU HRD Award is nominated by another individual or organisation. Human Rights organisations active in Uganda were invited to nominate candidates for the award. Candidates were assessed by a panel composed of human rights experts of different European Embassies and the EU Heads of Mission.

Past winners of the EU HRD Award include Gerald Kankya (2012) of Twerwaneho Listeners Club, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala (2013) former Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), the three joint winners (2014) Gladys Canogura of Kitgum Women Peace Initiative, Assistant Commissioner of Police Christine Alalo, Head of the Uganda Police Family and Child Protection Unit, and Mohammed Ndifuna, Director of the Human Rights Network Uganda.

The others are Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana (2015), Founder & Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and Robert Sempala (2016) of the Human Rights Network of Journalists (HRNJ), Pamela Angwech (2017) Founder & Executive Director of the Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G); two joint winners, Margaret Arach Orech, Founder and Director of the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA) and Peter Sewakiryanga, a pastor with Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) in 2018.

The other past winners are William Amanzuru (2019), an environmental rights defender and founder of Friends of Zoka; Aimé Moninga (2020), Founder of Men of Hope and an advocate for the rights of male survivors of sexual violence in conflict; and Rita Aciro (2021), Women’s Rights Defender and Executive Director of the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET); Primah Kwagalah (2022), Executive Director of the Women’s Pro-bono Initiative.

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