Uganda: Cartoonist Spire Ssentongo Wins Human Rights Defender's Award

9 December 2023

Cartoonist and academician Dr.Jimmy Spire Ssentongo has been awarded the prestigious award of the most outstanding human rights defender of the year 2023.

This was during a national symposium as part of celebrations to mark the international day of human rights defenders held in Jinja on Friday.

The award was handed to Ssentongo by Justice David Ndikabona Batema the resident Judge of Iganga High Court circuit.

Ssentongo was recognized for his tremendous social media campaigns high lighting pressing issues in the country including the Kampala pothole exhibition and health sector exhibition among others.

In his remarks Spire applauded human rights defenders for recognizing his work , noting the social media campaigns he carried out, he was doing it as part of demanding for service delivery.

He said social media has democratised the media industry since there are few gatekeepers.

''I have been doing advocacy since 2006 through mainstream media but sometimes the editors would censor my work or they don't publish my cartoons but social media is a free space,'' he said.

He added that though social media has given everyone the freedom to do whatever they want, it has helped implement advocacy since censorship is very minimal than in the mainstream media.

Spire said this is the second award he has received this year in line of advocacy and pledged to continue with his advocacy now that he has been re-energized.

The academician however, revealed that he is being trailed by unknown people who sometimes threaten him which has prompted him to keep away from the public domain.

''I was once summoned at CID headquarters for promoting sectarianism and my file is still there. I also receive threatening calls and messages but I am not about to relent on the course of human rights advocacy,'' he revealed.

Others who were awarded include William Okabo Achol who won the outstanding human rights Defender for northern Uganda, Peter Ogik for Eastern Uganda, Winfred Mugambwa won Central Uganda and Joy Kyalimpa won for Western Uganda.

The Executive Director of National Coalition for Human rights Defenders Robert Kirenga re-echoed the need by Parliament to enact the Human Rights Defenders protection law because they always find alot of challenges in their working environment.

'' Most human rights defenders are labelled anti government and receive alot of threats from state operatives which is very challenging to us hence we need the law to protect us,'' Kirenga urged.

While giving his keynote address Justice David Batema asked the Human Rights Defenders who are much knowledgeable about different spheres of life including human rights to join politics and discuss policies and law from an informed point of view.

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