State of Press Freedom in Uganda at Stake.

 Journalists believe police officers misuse their authority to infringe on their freedoms.
Photo by Faiswal Kasirye 

Police and Media regulatory bodies are cited among the major oppressors of media in Uganda. Journalists have for a long time complained about being denied their rights and freedom in doing their work, they have been beaten and their equipment like cameras are taken and broken. Police and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) accuse journalists of inciting violence through biased reporting. This and more were among the issues addressed on this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations held on the 3rd of May.

Africa Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) said such wanton abuse of the rights and targeting of journalists is unacceptable since it denies the public the right to access information.

The above paper on Media and Elections in Uganda was presented by Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative at the World Press Freedom Day 2019 Uganda conference.

“Clearly the security forces that have responded to protesters want to carry out their wanton abuse of the rights of Ugandans in the darkness,” said Dr. Peter Mwesige, ACME’s Executive Director. “They don’t want any witnesses to high crimes. That’s why journalists have been targeted deliberately.” He added.

Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative at the World Press Freedom Day 2019 Uganda conference. 

In 2018 Photojournalists like James Akena who was beaten while he covered the protests in Kampala. During the same protests, two NTV journalists; Ronald Galiwango and Juma Kirya as well as the observer’s photographer, Alfred Ochwo were also beaten. They were forced to delete footage from their cameras and phones.

The Uganda law society during the court hearing of the 2009 Robert Serumaga incident said that UCC does not have the mandate to order the . This followed the recent suspension of media personnel who covered the Bobi wine saga at one love beach on Easter Monday where Bobi Wine’s Annual Easter Monday Concert was slated to take place.

UCC gave a directive to suspend a total of 39 journalists from seven radio stations and six Television stations arguing that they had failed to follow the minimum broadcasting standards.

In the wake of Honorable Robert Kyagulanyi’s Easter Monday arrest by Police, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) came hot on the trail of various media houses that were involved in reporting the situation.

 Uganda Law Society (ULS) further guided that the disciplinary action against journalists is the mandate of the Media of the council whose functions are well stated in section 10(1) of the Press and Journalist act, CAP 105.

Either way section 8 of the Electronic media act sets out the minimum broadcasting standards which says “A person shall not carry out any broadcasting unless what is to be broadcasted is a compliance with the provisions of the first schedule of the act”.

ACME statement – UCC must reverse its directive to media houses to suspend staff

On the World press freedom day, many primetime TV and radio programs were dominated by news about photojournalists who were beaten. According to Next Media’s Twaha Mukiibi, one of the victims of police brutality, the world press freedom day is not worth celebrating due to what he terms as ‘atrocities’ committed against members of the Fourth Estate.

The Uganda Human Rights Network for journalists (HRNJ) press freedom index report for the year 2017 released emphasized that police is responsible for 73% of the 113 cases of press freedom violation and abuses recorded in the year 2017.

“While the Department acknowledges that media practitioners should be responsible in their reporting, we also reaffirm our commitment to promote independent and fact-based reporting. This is our mandate as journalism and communication trainers,” States Dr. William Tayeebwa, the Head of Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University.

Dr. William Tayeebwa, Head of Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University

 The Makerere University Department of Journalism and Communication (MAK-DJC) was selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to host the 2019 World Press Freedom day academic conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In that capacity, Dr. William Tayeebwa, head, Department of Journalism and Communication said MAK-DJC had conducted commissioned studies for UNESCO on a host of topics using the agency’s ‘Media Development Indicators’ including the safety of journalists, freedom of expression and of the media, training standards for journalists among others.

While on NBS TV Uganda, on the world press freedom day, the chairperson parliamentary forum on media said the profession of journalism is evolving but the journalists should be objective.

Ibra Bbosa, the Head of Public Relations and International Relations at UCC said that they regulate content and the media is at a junior level in reporting good content.

“The media should follow the guidelines and the laws,” Bbosa added.

Ibra Bbosa during an interview on NBS TV

Godfrey Mutabazi the Executive Director of UCC and the members of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held a meeting on 7th May 2019 and agreed about the directives to some broadcasters about breach of minimum broadcasting standards. The affected staff for each broadcaster will step aside to pave way for investigations into the alleged staff.

Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director of UCC
Captain Francis Babu giving his remarks about the state of press freedom in Uganda

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