Poor Welfare of Journalists Worries Media Experts

The experts observe that a number of journalists are poorly paid, work without pay, are not compensated for extra hours, and work without proper protective gear.

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Media experts have expressed concern about the welfare of media practitioners in Uganda.

On Tuesday, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Press Freedom Day under the theme "Journalism Under Digital Siege".

The experts have observed that a number of journalists are poorly paid, work without pay, are not compensated for extra hours, and work without proper protective gear.

Speaking at the sideline of a media dialogue at the ICT Hub in Nakawa, media trainer Dr. George Lugalambi noted that investors in the media industry should be able to pay all their workers and make available the required infrastructure for them to perform their duties.

Dr. Lugalambi adds that media owners should be able to meet the required standards if they are to be given a license to operate. He argues that a media house should demonstrate that they have the required infrastructure and resources before they are allowed to operate.

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Dr. Adolf Mbaine, a lecturer at Makerere University Kampala says that focus should also be put on having a Minimum Wage in the country.

He says that there is a tendency to discuss media issues in isolation even when they are cross-cutting. For instance, he notes that the issue of low pay should be discussed in totality because not just media practitioners are receiving meager payments.

Parliament in February 2019 passed the Minimum Wage Bill but the president declined to assent to it saying there were gaps in the Minimum Wages Advisory Board and the Wages Council Act that the Bill sought to cure. The Bill, first tabled in parliament in 2015 sought to empower the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development to appoint a Minimum Wages Board to fix all minimum wages for various sectors and for the minister to announce the minimum wages annually.

On Sunday during the Labour Day Celebrations, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta increased the Minimum wage by 12 percent to empower workers in the current increase in commodity prices. The current minimum wage is 13,500 Kenyan shillings (over 400,000 Uganda shillings) per month.

In Uganda, during similar celebrations, President Museveni said Ugandans should adjust their lifestyle and if bread is unaffordable, they opt for Cassava, a statement Dr. Mbaine finds unfortunate since not many city dwellers have a garden to cultivate. The increase in fuel prices has equally increased the cost of food.

Dr. Mbaine says that the Government should fast-track the Minimum Wage Bill for all workers in the country to promote their livelihood and their standards of living.

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The Executive Director of Uganda Media Women's Association Margaret Ssentamu doubts that media owners deliberately decline to pay journalists for their work. She explains that the cost of running a media house is high and what should be fixed first is the economy.

She also adds that a journalist should take a personal stand and abandon any exploitative or non-paying job for another or change careers. 

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