57 percent of the respondents in Uganda were against the idea of letting the government restrict the free press, especially on issues it considers harmful.
Journalist James Akena being beaten by the UPDF
citizens in the country support media freedom. This is contained in a report by
Twaweza Uganda’s Sauti za Wananchi.
The brief titled Press freedom in East Africa; citizens’ perspective shows
that 57 percent of the respondents in Uganda were against the idea of letting
the government restrict the free press, especially on issues it considers
“57 percent (of citizens) say the media should be able to publish views and ideas
without government control, preferring this statement over the alternative,
that the government should have the right to control what the media can
publish,” the data brief reads in part.
Equally, 61 percent of citizens also believe that freedom of speech is a human
right and so anybody should be allowed to become a journalist while 39 say that
journalism should be licensed with the government deciding who can be a
The survey data further indicates that more than 79 percent of Ugandans
strongly believe that only a free press can report on government mistakes and
corruption while 20 percent think too much reporting on government mistakes and
corruption harms the country.
Relatively similar insights on press freedom were shared by citizens in
neighboring Kenya and Tanzania with more respondents in the two countries also
asserting that independent media, freedom of expression, and access to
information are all vital to democracy.
citizen’s support for freedom of the press is also consistent withthe
rising public trust in media. According to the data, during the COVID-19 pandemic,
for instance, 83 percent of citizens trusted information obtained from
traditional media outlets like radios, TV, and newspapers more than any other
However, although citizens support a free press, they are also concerned about
the effects of social media on fake news and intolerance. To this effect, about
55 percent of Ugandan respondents think unrestricted access to the internet
and social media should be protected.
The views from the citizens come at a time when many reports have been pointing
to the fact that media space in Uganda has been narrowing with restrictions and
violations limiting media houses and individual journalists from conducting
A recently released 2021 Human Rights Network for Journalist-HRNJ report, for
instance, cites that although the nature of violations and restrictions on
media houses and journalists had drastically decreased from those committed in
the previous years, Uganda is still ranked among countries where media freedoms
and rights are stifled.
The report highlights that now and then
journalists have been stopped from accessing news and sometimes media houses
have been completely closed. For such, among other reasons, Uganda’s global
record on freedom of expression, access to information, and the general media
environment has dropped from 117th in 2018 to remain static at 125th in these
past three years.