PICTORIAL: Journalist Agather Atuhaire bags EU’s Human Rights Defender’s Award 2023

Her Excellency Karin Boven Ambassador of Netherlands to Uganda and Journalist Agatha Atuhaire (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Former Uganda Radio network journalist, Agather Atuhaire is a proud recipient of the European Union (EU) for being a consistent human rights defender.

Speaking at the awards ceremony held on Thursday, Jan Sadek, the EU Ambassador to Uganda said the winners of this annual award are recognized for engaging in several works including documenting violations, seeking remedies for victims, providing legal, psychological, and medical support as well as combating cultures of impunity which serve to screen systematic and repeated breaches of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Sadek said Atuhaire has recently expressed courage in fighting for the rights of others when she initially stood up against the unexplained failing of students attending a bar course at the Law Development Center.

The journalist cum lawyer has also taken on the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation (NWSC) over poor service delivery in addition to keeping a keen eye on the operations of parliament, which has many times pitted her against Speaker Anita Among and more recently Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition in parliament over budget issues.

Her activism has mostly been done on social media. When receiving the award, Atuhaire said she has had to endure assault and threats to her life because of activism.

She said in her activism against LDC, she ruled out going to court because she knew it would not yield anything for the thousands aggrieved but wanted to expose them for all Ugandans to know.

This award was first given in 2012 with the aim of raising awareness of the work being done by human rights defenders and as a way of recognizing their courage and determination, often in very difficult circumstances. Last year, lawyer Primah Kwagala received this award for her contribution to providing legal assistance to vulnerable women.

This year, eighty-eight people were nominated for the award from whom three were shortlisted including investigative journalist Solomon Serwanjja and Gay Rights Activist, Richard Lusimbo.

 Agather Atuhaire is a freelance journalist and lawyer by training. She works with organisations that focus on governance and accountability and a range of media outlets. In the past year she has used her human rights activism to highlight issues related to civic space, public accountability, misuse and mismanagement of public services and discrimination by public bodies. She has effectively useful social media to break sensitive stories and has faced threats as a result of some of her reporting, particularly on stories covering Parliament.

Solomon Serwanjja is an investigative journalist and Executive Director of the African Institute for Investigative Journalism. Over the past year he has been very actively working on key human rights issues through investigations and documentaries into labour rights (externalisation of labour), housing rights and access to basic services (slum populations), torture (organising large-scale discussions about torture following high-profile cases in 2022) and a range of other issues. He has faced threats, arrest and harassment as a result of his reporting over the years.

 Richard Lusimbo is an active and well known LGBT+ and human rights activist, filmmaker and public speaker. He is known for openly talking about being gay in Uganda, and advocating for rights for marginalised groups. He is the founder and Director General of The Ugandan Key Populations Consortium (UKPC), which aims to bring together and advocate for issues for key population-led organisations. The organisation has cooperated with UNAIDS, UNDP, WHO, Aidsfond, several embassies and other renowned institutions. He is one of the leaders of the LGBTI community fighting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

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