KAMPALA — The Uganda Editors’ Guild has been inaugurated in Kampala on Monday during activities to mark the World Press Freedom Day, celebrated every May 3.
Prof. Frederick Jjuuko gave a Key Note Address and spoke about militarism and how it affects media operations while relating to Uganda.
Citing a number of examples he said that militarism has replaced state institutions and processes—infecting them “with militarism itself” — citing courts of law where civilians have been tried before military courts among other incidents.
“Elections have become security operations in this country. You all remember the previous army violations on the population,” he said adding that the practice also leads to massive corruption and entitlement with great impunity.
“Recently, we have seen the bashing of journalists but there’s no accountability for those who orchestrate violence and impunity. The media now is at a very great risk for exposing such acts of impunity”.
He, however, cautioned the media against glamorizing war, noting: “When you do that, without saying anything about what the war entails for people; deaths, extreme suffering, economy etc, it makes, war attractive to the young people and then you create future militarists.”
The Danish Ambassador to Uganda, representing the European Union Delegation quoting a report by Reporters Without Borders said over the past year, there was a “dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage”.
While health workers were struggling with the pandemic over the past year, he said many journalists around the world faced another challenge almost as damaging: a global infodemic.
Fake news, hate speech, conspiracy theories, he noted “in times of COVID-19 has become clearer than ever that access to reliable information can be a matter of life or death”.
He said the European Union pays tribute to all journalists who continue working under often-harsh conditions, with increasing financial and political pressure, surveillance, arbitrary prison sentences or violence, at a time when independent and free media reporting is more essential than ever.
“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, which can thrive only if citizens have access to reliable information and can make informed choices. Press freedom means security for all”, he said.
On his part, Mr. Anthony Kujawa,Spokesman US Embassy, Kampala mooted the alarming increase of social media and “internet restrictions by governments around the world”.
He said the repercussions of these tactics mean that the public can be left ill-or uninformed on important topics.
“Shutting down the internet threatens the ability of journalists to do their job and the access to journalism that people need to be active, informed citizens,” he said noting that Washington also condemns the use of partial or complete government-imposed Internet shutdowns to suppress freedom of expression online.
At the event, findings of a study of public perceptions on the treatment of journalists in Uganda were present by Twaweza Uganda with findings based on data collected from 1,500 respondents across Uganda from October to December 2020.
Marie Nanyanzi, Sauti za Wananchi Officer at Twaweza, said “Citizens are clearly in support of media holding government to account and that they are also clear that they should be allowed to criticize the government and individual officials especially to draw attention to mistakes and wrong-doing.
However, data shows that a significant minority of citizens appear to support of government regulation and control over media content.
Twaweza Executive Director Aidan Eyakuze urged the media to avoid partisanship reporting to build trust among their audiences.
He said Twaweza will continue to work with the Uganda Editors’ Guild and all other Independent journalists whom “we encourage to use our data so that the people can understand, read and act on what they are facing”.
Mr. Eyakuze condemned actions of suppressing information by governments citing Tanzania as unfortunate example.
“Information about the five global challenges including COVID-19 and Climate Change and how to deal with them are vitally important,” he said.
Mr. Daniel K. Kalinaki, the Chairman Uganda Editors’ Guild said the Editors have since inception have studied key areas where they can add value but “we have also put in our time and commitment”.
Mr. Kalinaki said the Guild will work hard to protect “our rights” independence of media and said journalists aren’t enemy of the state.
The formation of the Guild started in February 2019, after senior industry practitioners who after attending the International Training Programme in Sweden, in 2018 mobilised senior editors to form the Guild.
The Executive Committee includes the chairman Mr. Daniel K. Kalinaki, the General Manager, Editorial at Nation Media Group Uganda, David Mukholi, the Managing Editor (Editorial) of Vision Group, Joyce Bagala, formerly the Head of News at NBS TV, and Alex B. Atuhaire, the Editorial Director at PML Daily (www.pmldaily.com). Others are Sylvia Nankya, an editor at the Uganda Radio Network, and Pius Katunzi Muteekani of The Observer newspaper.
The senior media people on the ITP 2018 Programme included Dr. Peter G. Mwesige, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Media Excellence, and national facilitator for the International Training Programme (ITP) on Media Self-regulation in a Democratic Framework.
Others were Ms Barbara Kaija, Editor in Chief, The New Vision; Dr. Adolf Mbaine of Makerere University, School of Journalism, Mr. Paul Amoru, Dokolo North MP, Rosemary Kemigisha of Uganda Human Rights Commission and Peter Okello Jabweli, of the Media Council of Uganda.
The ITP is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.