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He was nominated for the Award because of his consistency in defending media rights, recording and highlighting limitations of freedom of expression, information and association in Uganda, majorly attacks on journalists.
According to a press statement by HRNJ-Uganda dated April 24 which Chimpreports has seen, the activist has provided a steadfast leadership to the organization to stand firm against the victimization of journalists in a challenging operating environment, and has accordingly worked to expose and publicize their plight at different foras.
HRNJ-Uganda boasts of over 200 members and press clubs across the country.
“This is a very big achievement for me and my colleagues in the organization with whom we have worked tirelessly to improve the working environment for the media and the general human rights situation in Uganda. It clearly shows that our efforts are well focused, and I feel re-energized to stand for this cause” said Ssebaggala.
The Award was handed over to him by the French Ambassador to Uganda; Her Excellence Aline Kuster Menager, on April 23, 2013 at a reception held at the Dutch Ambassador’s residence in Uganda’s Capital Kampala.
The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Uganda Ambassador Dr Roberto Ridolfi was represented by the Head of Political, Trade and Regional Integration of the Head of European Union, Mr. Thomas Millar.
“As a founding member of HRNJ-Uganda, Ssebaggala has continuously worked with his colleagues in the organization to improve rights of journalists and protect the freedom of expression,” the statement reads in part.
“The organization has therefore helped journalists in detention, represented journalists in Courts of Law and produced Press Freedom Index reports to highlight the difficulty of journalists and propose ways of improving the state of the media in light of the human rights situation in the country.”
The award comes against the backdrop of reports of journalist harassment by security officials.
Police last year came under fire for attacking journalists who were covering opposition rallies in Kampala.
Uganda Prisons officials were in March photographed as they battered journalists who were covering the escape of prisoners from a prison facility in Rakai District.
Police publicist Judith Nabakooba told Chimpreports the relations between the law enforcement body and the fourth estate had “progressively normalized.”
Meanwhile, Ssebaggala was nominated along with over 10 prominent Human Rights activists notably; Bishop Zack Niringyiye, Lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi and the Executive Director of the Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda Ms Cissy Kagaba among others.
He joins the winner of the inaugural award Gerald Kankya of Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) who won the award in 2012 for his human rights work in 2011, in a race that saw Ssebaggala come second.
The European Union (EU) missions and delegation in Uganda established the Annual Award to raise awareness on the work of human rights defenders (HRDs).
The award recognizes and honors the achievements of an individual human rights defender in Uganda, who has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights during the year.
Nominations are received from Human Rights organizations and individuals active in Uganda, and the winner is selected by the EU heads of mission.