ACME statement – Protect journalists’ safety during the COVID-19 lockdown

For Immediate Release

6 April 2020

Kampala

African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) welcomes the government’s directive to Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to institute measures that will allow up-country journalists to move around and do their work during the COVID-19 lockdown. According to ICT and National Guidance Minister Judith Nabakooba, the journalists will have to register with the RDC’s office.

This order comes on the backdrop of growing attacks on journalists in different parts of the country since the 18 March 2020 presidential directives geared at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Uganda. A report by Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda indicates that at least seven journalists, a majority from up-country, have been victims of assault and arrest, with some having their equipment damaged. Many were forced to delete video and photo images on their cameras.

The role of the media at a time like this — to provide information, offer a platform for public debate, and monitor government response and thus hold power to account — cannot be overstated.  This is coupled with the public’s right to know and to access as much accurate information as they can in order to make informed decisions about their safety and survival.

In this vein, ACME calls upon the government, its agencies and the COVID-19 response national task force to ensure the protection and facilitation of the media to do its work with as little disruption as possible.

Media owners too have a responsibility to ensure that their journalists report accurately and stay safe from the viral disease and those harassing them. And journalists should protect themselves first before serving the public.

“Combating this pandemic will require our concerted effort,” said Dr Peter G. Mwesige, the ACME executive director. “ACME supports Minister Nabakooba’s call to the media to act responsibly and professionally by not disseminating fake news and providing platforms for misleading public debate on the virus. Similarly, the general public should desist from misusing social media to peddle misleading information about the pandemic.”

At the same time, he added, ACME urges authorities to respect the right of journalists and citizens to discuss and disseminate information about the appropriateness and legitimacy of presidential or government directives related to COVID-19 as well as the whole response to the pandemic.

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ABOUT AFRICAN CENTRE FOR MEDIA EXCELLENCE: ACME is a Kampala-based independent, non-profit professional organisation committed to excellence in journalism and mass communication in Africa. The organisation fulfils its mandate through refresher training for mid-career journalists; media literacy training for civil society organisations, corporate companies and others; media research; free expression advocacy; and media monitoring.

 For further information, please contact Dr Peter G. Mwesige on +256-772-313-067; mwesige@acme-ug.org

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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