Press freedom in Uganda not getting any better – Journalists

Press freedom in Uganda not getting any better - Journalists
There was alleged clobbering and mistreatment of Journalists who were covering the 2018 Airtel Kabaka Birthday Run by Buganda Royal Guards including UPDF soldiers

Media practitioners say media space in Uganda has been reducing despite good laws in support of press freedom. The concern comes as Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Press Freedom.

The commemoration is under the global theme for this year, which is: ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law.’

Journalists in retirement and those in active have complained against increasing wave of restrictions that have tended to curtail media practice.

Veteran Journalist, Wafula Oguttu, also Co-founder of the Daily Monitor Newspaper, says press freedom in the main stream media has been reducing over the years with a lot of control from Government, and media owners.

He says several media houses have been shut down, and the media intimidated among others.

Oguttu says Journalists covering the opposition politicians have also suffered from beating by the police and other security operatives.

He says though journalists rights have not been violated for writing a particular story, their rights have been violated as they covered events over the years.

Dr. George Lugalambi, Formerly Head of Mass communications at Makerere University says press freedom is not getting any better.

Lugalambi says the motivation for people in Government towards gagging the media have not changed over time.

Lugalambi says violation of freedom of journalists should not be expected in this era.

He says there is no press freedom on media up country especially given that media owners fear being shut down. He said some Resident District Commissioners who have shut down radio stations, summoned managers and reporters, but also demanded for scripts of news stories.

Lugalambi says social media is coming up as an option for freedom of expression, although Government is also trying to censure this.

Alice Lubwama, one of the long-serving female journalists says so far journalists cover Government functions freely but media houses operate under self censorship.

She says it is mostly the media houses upcountry that face these challenges a lot.

Solomon Muyita, a communications officer with the Judiciary says press freedom has been fluctuating depending on the political environment.

He says sometimes journalists have operated freely and sometimes they have really been tortured.

He says for the Judiciary, they have tried to ensure that journalists get access to information. He says where journalists are denied information, they have used the access to information act to access certain information.

Dr Martin Aliker, who was the chairperson Uganda Aurgus News Paper however says compared to the early days, journalists today have a lot of freedom, as seen by their criticism of Government without any risks.

The Uganda Argus was a private English language newspaper which first came into print in 1955. In the 1960s, Aliker became its board chairperson until 1972 when Amin nationalised the paper and renamed it Voice of Uganda. Aliker ran into exile in Kenya shortly after and would only return in Uganda after the fall of Amin.

According to Aliker, Amin tried to kill him when the newspaper published stories.

Aliker also says looking at cases of journalists getting arrested or disappearing, all those are not state sponsored, but mostly mixed up with personality battles and business but not state sponsored like in the earlier regimes.

According to Aliker, some journalists were killed in the 90’s and some went missing, but you barely here of such today.

Uganda’s ranking in the Press Freedom index 2018 produced by Reporters Beyond Borders (RSF) has dropped five places to 117 this year. According to the index, journalists in Uganda face acts of intimidation and violence mostly carried out by security services, which beat and abduct journalists.