“Violence on Journalists Is Violence on Society”—says Mr Frank Oyugi, GLCSMS’ Director Strategic Communications.
Lira—29, December 2020: With less than 20 days left to voting in the 2021 polls, the political terrain in Uganda is tilting, its temperature rising to the boiling points and anxiety looming in the air of a country whose politics is in murky waters.
The wave of sporadic violence already worries many citizens with over 50 lives now lost, scores injured, often as a result of pandemonium and skirmishes largely between opposition political candidates vying for president, their supporters and security forces.
In all these mixes, the public relies on Journalists and media houses to keep them abreast with the trending (current happenings), but finally, the messenger has been shot.
Last week, at least three journalists in the Capital Kampala got entangled in the violence that ensued during the campaign trail of National Unity Platform (NUP) principal, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and some got gruesomely injured from teargas canisters while others say bullets were targeted at them. But why shoot the messenger?
Media, often referred to as the Fourth Estate, plays a very crucial role in the society, acting as the watchdog, interrogating those in authority to ensure transparency, accountability and service delivery.
In Uganda, the media draws its powers and authority from Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda promulgated in1995 and as Amended. Article 29 enhances media freedom among a raft of freedoms such as that of thought and expression, assembly and peaceful demonstrations.
An informed media is impactful for the political and socio-economic wellbeing of society. For that to happen, the media should have adequate access to information. Such rights have been provided for in Article 41 of the constitution and further entrenched in the Access to Information Act of 2005. This mandates the state to ensure journalists to access information with state and government bodies.
Journalists have obligations to be free, fair, truthful and impartial as they execute or discharge their duties of sourcing, packaging and disseminating information.
A free media, void of censorship by both state and non-state actors is grandiloquent for democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, and a free-democratic society
But across the World, Journalists and media practitioners have been targeted because of their work or publications. Some are often arrested arbitrarily, some harassed, and in extreme cases jailed. Incidents of violence and abuse against the media increased in 2018, according to a newly released Press Freedom Index.
The Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) in its 10th edition of the index, states that it documented 163 cases of violations and abuses against journalists and media houses in 2018.
This is an escalation if compared to the 117 cases registered in 2017.
Aware that media and journalists are the only sources of information the populace relies on, especially during the elections period, GLCSMS executives and her staff would like to ask the government to respect media freedom as enshrined in the Constitution. Security officers alleged to have committed a crime against journalists should be arrested and put on trial.
Milton Emmy Akwam Frank Oyugi
Executive Director Director, Strategic Communications
Cc: Speaker of Parliament
Inspector General of Police
Chief of Defense Forces
Chairperson Electoral Commission
All Media Houses/Organizations/Journalists
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