Africa Center for Media Excellence (ACME) has urged media owners to resist pressure from powerful politicians and sacrificing media independence saying the practive leaves the media in “serious danger.”
In a statement issued today, 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 Uganda.
Citing a recent incident when 3 journalists: 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; ACME says it disheartening that media owners have gave in to pressure and joined the violators of press freedom.
Following their suspension, the journalists issued apologies on their social media accounts, Simon Muyanga Lutaaya says their bosses stayed adamant possibly “due to political pressure.” Mr. Lutaaya says he received information that the suspension was prompted by the top leadership of parliament who, he says, vowed that the suspension will remain as long as they wish.
ACME also notes that 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.
The ACME statement notes that it is 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.
The media research and journalism training organization also cited the November 2020 incident when 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. ACME says it was not clear what Among meant by “unauthorized” information.
Dr. Lugalambi says many media houses across Uganda have abdicated their duty to protect and defend their journalists in conflict with the subjects of news stories at times media houses disowning and distance themselves from accused journalists instead of standing by them and offering legal representation abound.
With such actions Dr Lugalambi says media owners ironically pose a greater threat to media freedom and freedom of expression than the state.
“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….’ The statement concludes.