Tension between government and the media over negative press is a normal and necessary element of democracy, which promotes transparency and encourages good governance, The United States (US) Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac says.
Ambassador Malac observes that while critical reporting may be irritating, it does not justify physical attacks, threats or harassment against journalists. This was in her statement delivered at the closure of a National Conference on the World Press Freedom Day organized by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala, Wednesday.
She noted that the press has a responsibility to report facts as they are but not how government officials might wish them to be. She said that if these facts prove embarrassing, then this remains a fault of no one but the officials who did something wrong.
The Ambassador says that if the facts are that there is violence occurring, or corruption is rampant, or that patients are not getting their medicine, then this should be information worth telling the public.
“The press should be biased – biased in favor of the public interest because it is the media’s responsibility to serve as a watchdog and ensure a country’s leaders are doing the work they were elected to do.” said Malac.
On the numerous attacks against the media industry and journalists, Ambassador Malac noted that freedom of speech and expression can be difficult to tolerate but it must be tolerated since it is a fundamental right.
She noted that when rights begin to be limited, democracy is limited too and that when government constricts the rights and freedoms of its citizens, the future and the development of the country suffer as well. Malac recounted different incidences where rights of journalists and activists have been curtailed.
The ambassador says that these and others are real threats putting lives and livelihoods at risk and undermine the constitutional rights to a free press and free expression which ultimately threaten Uganda’s development.