The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has asked both media and government to settle their differences before tensions escalate.
In a World Press Freedom Day speech delivered by state Minister of General Duties Mary Karoro Okurut at the Railway Grounds in Kampala, Oulanyah said both parties need to dialogue and focus on complementing each other.
Oulanyah’s call follows a Uganda Communications Commission directive to suspend staff of over 16 media houses over a live broadcast of news events related to the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
“Media practitioners can resort to courts of law in addition to the Human Rights Commission and I’m sure your differences with the government will be resolved. However, dialogue is always the best answer so media and government should find space and dialogue for the betterment of our country,” said Oulanyah.
His message was re-echoed by Medi Kaggwa, the chairperson of Uganda Human Right Commission, who encouraged journalists ‘not to give up on fighting for their rights’.
“I urge all stakeholders to put our strength together and protect our media rights in these emerging circumstances of new media,” said Kaggwa.
Robert Ssempala, the Executive Director of Human Rights Network for Journalists said government is now oppressing journalists ‘without any sense of shyness’.
“Our question to all responsible government agents here is in whose interest is UCC working? Media freedom is a vehicle of all other fundamental rights but if it’s violated by state agents, everyone’s right stands to be violated then,” he said.
Mercy Lugemwa, the vice president, Uganda Journalists Association promised that journalists will use legal means until UCC calls off its directives. “As UJA, this is our promise. We shall take appropriate legal, advocacy and administrative actions necessary to counter the illegal UCC directives,” she said.
Media freedom in Uganda has always been violated by security agents, government officials and on several occasions, assaulted journalists don’t get justice while the accused ones go free.
Uganda, according to a newly released report dropped on the Global Press Freedom Index from the 117th position in 2018 to 125th in 2019.
According to ranking, the country lags behind her neighbors Kenya and Tanzania, which occupy the 100th and 118th positions, respectively. Uganda’s drop on the press freedom index has been blamed on acts of intimidation and violence against reporters, which the report says occur on a daily basis.