NEWS RELEASE: Protesting unlawful directive on government advertising

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KAMPALA, JULY 24, 2023

The Uganda Editors’ Guild (UEG) vehemently protests the arbitrary and unconstitutional directive issued by President Yoweri Museveni on March 6, 2023, and further reinforced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance on July 10, 2023. This directive mandates all government advertising to be channeled solely through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and Print media through the New Vision (NV), resulting in an unfair and discriminatory practice that is detrimental to media freedom and the equitable distribution of public funds.

As advocates for freedom of the press and the rights of all Ugandans to access diverse and unbiased information, the UEG acknowledges and appreciates the planned meeting between the Executives of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the President scheduled for 10th August 2023. The UEG plans to attend the meeting and hopes the avenue will be used to resolve the following concerns:

  1. Discrimination and Unconstitutionality: The directive to exclusively utilize UBC and NV for government advertising infringes upon Article 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, which strictly abhors discrimination based on social, religious, and economic standing, among other criteria. Such a move is in violation of the liberalized economic trajectory adopted by Uganda in the 1990s, where public agencies are expected to compete fairly with the private sector for revenue and government business.
  2. Monopoly and Fair Competition: The government-owned status of both UBC and NV raises concerns about fair competition within the media industry. By monopolizing government advertising through these channels, independent media houses are unjustly denied the opportunity to compete for government advertising revenue, stifling their growth and hindering their ability to employ journalists and other professionals.
  3. Rights of Journalists and Media Professionals: Article 40(2) of the Constitution of Uganda grants every individual the right to practice their profession and carry on lawful occupations, trade, and business. By monopolizing government advertising through UBC and NV, other media organizations are denied fair opportunities to participate in the competitive market, leading to significant financial repercussions. This directive severely jeopardizes the livelihoods of journalists and media professionals across the country.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: The allocation and usage of public funds, including tax revenues, should be conducted with utmost transparency and accountability. The directive deprives Ugandan citizens of their right to know how tax revenues are being used, distributed, and allocated by the government.

In light of the aforementioned concerns, the Uganda Editor’s Guild announces the following actions:

  1. Government Press Briefing Boycott: Until a resolution is reached, the media will boycott government press briefings in protest against the unconstitutional directive on government advertising.
  2. Appeal to Government: We urge the government to abandon the directive and seek alternative solutions that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of government advertising funds.
  3. Engagement with Concerned Authorities: The UEG demands for continued engagement between stakeholders in the media industry and the government to address these pressing issues and find a constructive way forward.

The Uganda Editors’ Guild remains committed to upholding media freedom, defending the rights of journalists, and safeguarding the interests of all Ugandans. We stand firm in our pursuit of a diverse and vibrant media landscape that empowers citizens with accurate and unbiased information.

ABOUT UGANDA EDITORS’ GUILD:

The Uganda Editors’ Guild is an association of the country’s senior editors and media scholars formed to foster professional and viable media that effectively advances a democratic society by promoting media freedom, credibility and professionalism.  At its core, the philosophy behind the Uganda Editors’ Guild is that editors must lead from the front in pursuing media freedom and professionalism and that we must produce journalism worth fighting for. Our activities are geared towards recommitting members, and by extension the industry, to a higher set of values and more ethical and responsible journalism.

For further inquiries:  info@ugandaeditorsguild.org

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