If Uganda media houses do not stand up for and defend media freedoms, who will?


For Immediate Release

31 January 2023

Kampala—On Thursday, 26 January 2023, Simon Muyanga Lutaaya, Al-mahadi Adam and Lukia Suubo Mpozza, working with Baba Television were suspended over a viral video viewed as “demeaning, mocking and ridiculing Parliament of Uganda’s role in the censure of Hon. Persis Namuganza.” The video was a recording of a programme that the journalists hosted the day before. Following their suspension, the journalists issued apologies on their social media accounts.

As many commentators have stated, there was no need for an apology from the journalists who were expressing an opinion about the conduct of a public institution and basing it on facts out in the public domain.

ACME is dismayed by the increasing stifling of freedom of expression, including freedom of the media in Uganda, which is occasioned by the executive, the legislature, security agencies, business entities, and now media owners.

In the last couple of years, many media houses across the country have abdicated their duty to protect and defend their journalists in conflict with the subjects of news stories. Cases where media houses disown and distance themselves from accused journalists instead of standing by them and offering legal representation abound.

“It is disheartening that media owners have sacrificed media independence, leaving the media in serious danger. Unfortunately, with such actions, media owners ironically pose a greater threat to media freedom and freedom of expression than the state,” said Dr George Lugalambi, ACME’s executive director.

It is also disturbing that parliament, which should be the heartbeat of our democracy, has, over the last couple of years, targeted journalists that criticise the institution or its members. In 2016, parliament attempted to ban critical journalists under the guise of weeding out journalists without university degrees from covering the institution. The move was quashed by court.

In November 2022, the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Annet Among, warned journalists accredited to cover the legislature to desist from publishing unauthorised information as they would be charged under the computer misuse law. It was not clear what she meant by “unauthorized” information.

We urge media owners and managers to stand by media freedoms, which are the foundation and cornerstone of their businesses, and not to cave in to pressure from business and politicians at the expense of free media and free expression. We also urge institutions of government to respect the media and the key role it plays in our democracy.

As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted at the commemoration of the 2020 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, “when journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered….”


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 Mr Apolo Kakaire at akakaire@acme-ug.org 

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