Ugandan journalists and rights activists are facing increased intimidation from the authorities in the run-up to the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, Human Rights Watch said Monday.
The elections will pit President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, against his former premier Amama Mbabazi and former army officer Kizza Besigye.
"While print journalists working in English have some relative freedom, radio journalists – particularly those working in local languages whose listeners are based in rural areas – face harassment and threats from an array of government and party officials," the rights group said.
Journalists have been suspended under government pressure, and radio stations threatened for hosting opposition members or government critics, according to the report.
The government has also clamped down on organizations working on human rights, including voter education, which have faced visits from police and closure of meetings, HRW said.
The group interviewed more than 170 journalists, activists, members of political parties and witnesses for the report.
Government spokesman Shaban Bantariza denied the allegations. "We have been carrying out free and fair elections for years and continue to do so," he said.
"If the population was not informed, many ministers and members of parliament would not have lost their seats" in the recent ruling party primaries to elect candidates for the parliamentary elections, Bantariza said.