By Daniel Wallis
KAMPALA – Uganda said on Friday it refused to let a Canadian journalist working for the Economist re-enter the east African country because of concerns about his reporting.
For months, government media authorities did not renew the pres
s accreditation of 34-year-old Blake Lambert, who had lived in Uganda for three years. Returning late on Thursday from a visit to South Africa, he was denied an entry visa.
He was put on the first flight out of the country.
“Lambert is generally an unwanted person here,” said Robert Kabushenga, director of the government’s Media Centre.
“He consistently misrepresented and misreported the situation,” Kabushenga told Reuters. “We asked him to provide a more balanced outlook on Uganda, but he didn’t listen to us.”
A U.S.-based media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said Lambert’s expulsion was “outrageous”.
“Expelling (him), especially in light of other recent attacks on independent journalists in Uganda, puts into question Uganda’s commitment to press freedom,” CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said in a statement.
Speaking by telephone after arriving in Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya, Lambert told Reuters he had been given no explanation by the Ugandan authorities.
“If I was thrown out because of my reporting, because someone thought I brought this on myself, that is ridiculous,” he said. “I’m even-handed. I report things as I see them.”
Lambert also worked for the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Times and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Government sources said his critical reporting style upset senior officials already unhappy with international coverage of the state’s prosecution of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
Donors who fund about half Uganda’s budget — but cut aid after Besigye’s arrest — were dismayed by Lambert’s expulsion.
“This is the latest in a worrisome series of pressures on the press and arbitrary government action,” one senior Western diplomat told Reuters.
Last month, President Yoweri Museveni extended his 20-year rule at elections Besigye says were rigged. — Reuter