Battered Ugandan journalists mark Press Freedom Day


Policemen chasing a journalist in Kampala


Ugandan journalists today join the world media fraternity to celebrate Press Freedom Day.

Every year, 3 May is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

Over 100 national celebrations take place each year to commemorate this Day.

The international day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.

Last month, the Human Rights Network For Journalists-Uganda launched the Press Freedom Index Report 2014 under the title, “The rise of tribulations of frontline Journalism – Who will protect the media?”.

In the report, 124 cases of violations against Journalists were recorded in 2014. Breakdown of perpetrators: 40 violations by the police, 39 violations by the Judiciary, 21 violations by private individuals/non state actors, 10 violations by RDCs, 8 violations by the UPDF, and at least 6 violations against journalists by media houses that employed the same victims.

Uganda Police continued to remain the highest violator of media freedoms although the number of cases generally reduced from 85 in 2013 to 40 in 2014.

In a new trend, several journalists were reportedly detained on orders of Judicial Officers for covering court proceedings. 39 cases under this category were reported representing 31% of the total cases reported during the year.

Report highlights that this worrying trend is undermining promotion of rule of law and enjoyment of human rights.

Judiciary violated more rights of media practitioners in 2014 than the RDCs and UPDF combined.

Most notable of such cases was the brutal treatment of WBS TV journalist, Andrew Lwanga, by the Old Kampala Police DPC, Joram Mwesigye.

Zadock Amanyisa, a Daily Monitor correspondent based in Bushenyi was on 22nd April incarcerated and charged by the police for allegedly disseminating false news.

The journalist quoted the security minister, Mary Karooro Okurut as saying “we need to bring back the mayumba kumi system of administration where every 10 homes make a cluster, which gives the chairman LCI the duty to identify who has slept in the village; that is how we shall get to know and beware of strange people who are likely to cause insecurity”.

Also last month, Journalists from Ankole sub region requested Members of Parliament to enact a law that will stop people who are not trained in journalism and mass communication from starting a media house.

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