KAMPALA -UGANDA: The Press Freedom Day commemorated on 3rd May every year, has not been spared by the coronavirus global pandemic. No marching, no physical placards and no songs or slogans.
But even before the pandemic hit, the situation has not been better especially for foot soldiers in the trade who have endured the brunt of both the opposing forces in the field and the hardships associated with a meager pay.
But what lays ahead in the post-corona period after the already bad situation has been exacerbated with salary cuts, lay-offs and terminations as media houses struggle to shrug off the effects of the pandemic.
Mr. Mulondo Moses, the leader of the elite force that cover proceedings in the Ugandan Parliament says government should urgently intervene.
According to a statement released today, Mr. Mulondo the President of the Parliamentary Press Association says they are pushing for indirect public financing/government subsidies including tax exemptions as the necessary remedy for sustainable journalism.
He says government subsides and grants can save the media industry since it is among those that will take long to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic pandemic.
“The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has worsened the situation. As we speak, all media houses are no longer able to pay salaries to journalists. Some have been forced to cut the already meager salaries, while others have completely stopped paying salaries. And after COVID-19, the media industry is among those that will take long to recover.”
PAY JOURNALISTS WELL FOR JOURNALISM WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR
As members of Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), we join the rest of the world to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day under the theme –Journalism Without Fear or Favour.
As we celebrate press freedom which is central in nation building and cementing sound democracy and good governance, we call upon various stakeholders especially those in authority to undertake necessary measures to stop all acts which violate press freedom.
According to reports from Uganda Human Rights Commission, government entities like Uganda Police Force, the army, and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) have over the years been the leading violators of press freedom using fear as one of their weapons.
On this day, we once again call upon various stakeholders including media practitioners, other professionals, parliamentarians, religious leaders, development partners, cultural leaders, academicians, and civil society to speak against these violations, promote and defend press freedom because once it is violated, all the fundamental rights for citizens get endangered.
We also implore all stakeholders especially media owners/managers, the executive and parliament to expeditiously undertake necessary measures to address the issue of poor remuneration for journalists because it negatively affects their capacity to execute their cardinal watchdog role without fear or favour.
Whereas a few leading media houses have the capacity to pay their journalists much better than they are currently doing, majority of the media houses don’t have the financial capacity to pay journalists well.
The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has worsened the situation. As we speak, all media houses are no longer able to pay salaries to journalists. Some have been forced to cut the already meager salaries, while others have completely stopped paying salaries. And after COVID-19, the media industry is among those that will take long to recover.
It is upon that background that we and many other stakeholders including contemporary media scholars are pushing for indirect public financing/government subsidies including tax exemptions as the necessary remedy for sustainable journalism.
To allay fears of those who think this could compromise journalists, all political parties including opposition parties are allocated taxpayers’ money in the national budget, but that doesn’t stop opposition parties from being critical of government.
Since journalism is a public good -not for profit making, it should be accessed by the public either free-of-charge or at a highly subsidized rate. It is everyone’s role to ensure a free and vibrant press that operates without fear or favour.
To the members of The Fourth Estate across the world, Happy Press Freedom Day.
President of Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA).