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Lack of Political Will Hindering Press Freedom-Media Experts

Margaret Ssentamu the Executive Director of Uganda Media Women's Association says that there is a lack of political will to promote and protect the freedoms of the press.

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Media and Communication experts have said that a lack of political will is hindering press freedom in the country.

Speaking at the World Press Day Dialogue session at the ICT hub on Tuesday in Nakawa, Moses Mulondo, from Uganda Parliamentary Press Association says that numerous meetings between media practitioners and the government have yielded no results. He notes that the Ministry of ICT under which media falls doesn't seem interested in promoting and protecting press and media freedoms.

According to the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Uganda is ranked 132 out of 180 countries in the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media. The country has deteriorated in ranking by seven levels having been named in the 125th position last year.

Margaret Ssentamu the Executive Director of Uganda Media Women's Association says that there is a lack of political will to promote and protect the freedoms of the press.

She says that if media practitioners and the government had a meaningful conversation guided by mutual respect, the two parties would come to an agreement and resolutions respected.

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Dr. Adolf Mbaine, a lecturer at Makerere University Kampala says that talks regarding respect for press freedoms depend on power relations where one party feels that they are in a more powerful position and see no urgency to respond to the grievances of the other party or parties.

He says this could explain why despite the different engagements, the cries about violation of press freedom by state agencies are persisting.

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Dr. George William Lugalambi, a media trainer says that the core law governing the press in Uganda, the Press, and Journalist Act 1995 is outdated.

Dr. Lugalambi says that the law doesn’t guide online press freedoms which exposes the press to more violations when they seek to reach an online audience.

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The State Minister for National Guidance, Godfrey Baluku Kabbyanga however reiterated the government's commitment to protecting the rights of the media. On the brutality of journalists, he said that some journalists cross the red line.

He asked journalists to respect guidance from security personnel during operations to avoid collisions.

During the previous electoral period brutality against journalists was rampant. The prominent of the incidents was that of Ghetto TVs Ashraf Kasirye who was allegedly shot with a rubber bullet while on the campaign trail of former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi.

More than 10 journalists were also assaulted from the offices of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kampala, where Kyagulanyi had gone to present a petition on human rights violations during elections. 

Carol Beyanga, an editor at the Daily Monitor newspaper and the Head of Mentorship, Partnerships, and Monetization at Nation Media Group says the government should find ways of resolving conflict with media rather than resort to oppressive measures like closure and violence.

Robert Kotchani, the Country Representative for International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights OHCHR, and the UN Resident Coordinator Susan Ngongi Namondon reiterated their commitment to support the fight for press freedom and facilitate dialogue between different stakeholders.