Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Uganda have faced threats and harassment in recent years as the government continued to limit freedom of expression and association. Human rights defenders advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people have been particularly at risk. The government has clamped down on independent media and enacted legislation restricting civil and political rights and constraining the functioning of non governmental organizations (NGOs).
In February 2014, President Museveni signed into law the 'Anti-homosexuality Bill' which criminalises what it terms “promotion of” and “aiding and abetting homosexuality” “or other related activities”, which are left undefined. While homosexuality was already criminalised under the country's penal code, the law goes further to impose harsh prison sentences to those convicted of advocating or supporting gay rights. In the face of these new developments, several LGBTI defenders have been forced to flee the country and many of their organisations have closed doors.
Restrictions on media freedom have been on the rise, as the government stepped up efforts to control the work of journalists and media houses. Journalists have generally seen their work environment deteriorate: a number of them have been arbitrarily arrested, intimidated and harassed by the police and other government officials while doing their legitimate work.
Non governmental organizations and human rights defenders face restrictions as regards the registration and functioning of NGOs. NGOs are regulated by the 2006 Non-Governmental Organizations (Amendment) Registration Act. The Act increased administrative constraints for the registration of NGOs and provided for criminal sanctions in case of contravention. The NGO National Board, which issues registration certificates, is exclusively composed of government representatives and has wide discretionary powers in regulating NGOs and associations. Amongst the most restrictive provisions is the prohibition for NGOs to enter into direct contact with local residents in rural areas without giving seven days notice in writing to the district authorities.