State, Media Owners Worst Media Freedom Abusers – Report

929 Views Kampala, Uganda
The state and media owners continue to be the worst abusers of media freedom in Uganda, according to a new report released on World Press Freedom day. The report published by Africa Media Barometer, states that the year 2010 is likely to spell a low ebb in the enjoyment of media freedom because the state is likely to increase its threats against the media in the run up to the 2011 general election. The report singles out resident district commissioners who have taken it on themselves to check the media with some illegally registering personal details of journalists without their knowledge. The report also notes with concern that the setting up by the police of a media offences department, with 15 journalists already facing criminal charges for sedition, incitement of violence, promoting sectarianism and criminal defamation. The closure of four radio stations during the September riots last year, outlawing of live outside broadcasts are also cited by the report as attempts by the government to intimidate the media. The report says communication tapping bill and the proposed amendments of The Press and Journalist Act 2000 are all intended to muzzle the media further. Other negative issues cited in the report that the state is planning include the ineffectiveness of The Access to Information Act, the arbitrary actions of the Broadcasting Council and the inability of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation to play as a public broadcaster. The report notes that after the state, media owners are the biggest obstacles to media freedom in Uganda. It cites frequent interventions in newsrooms and the inability to stand to the media in defending media freedom in the wake of the September 2009 riots. The bulging war chest of the Vision Group, in which the government controls 53 percent, is also cited by the report as a trend that couldcrowd out other media outlets in the country. The Vision Group is building up a big, national and powerful media conglomerate comprising newspapers, magazines, printing services, radio, television and online publishing The Africa Media Barometer report notes some positive developments like the increase in the number of media outlets with more print, television and radio outlets being licensed. Internet access has also increased from one million users in 2007 to 2.8 million users today, with nationwide penetration now at ninepercent. The report also notes that media lobby groups are also becoming stronger, citing the formation of Article 29 Coalition, a loose coalition of media groups championing media freedom in Uganda. The report concludes that as the 2011 general election nears, government's clampdown on free speech could be a response to the citizen's increased awareness and assertiveness and the resilience of the media.


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