Gov’t Conditions an Infringement on Press Freedom

Media Clamp down

Media practioneers have described terms set by government before re-opening both The Monitor and The Red Pepper as an infringement on freedom of the press in the country.

Al jazeera journalist Malcom Webb flee teargas cannisters Photo by Isaac Kasamani.
Al jazeera journalist Malcom Webb flee teargas cannisters Photo by Isaac Kasamani.

Government set tough conditions before re-opening the two newspapers and two radio stations among which the management of both papers were forced to agree that they had violated their own editorial policy.

The management of The Monitor regretted that the publication of the letter allegedly authored by General David Sejusa had led to closure of the media houses.

They agreed to steer clear of stories that generate tension ethnic hatred, cause insecurity or disturb law and order. They also agreed to keep a regular interface with government to ensure they respect set conditions.

They also agreed to observe and comply with the laws of Uganda and undertook to be objective, fair and balanced.

Speaking to Redpepper, Independent Media Council Executive Secretary, Haruna Kanaabi said by agreeing to the condition, The Monitor and the Red Pepper action had dented press freedom. He said the question was not about journalists’ professional standards but about the public space where people can equally discuss matters of governance.

He said it was clear that the space for Ugandans to discuss governance matters was narrowing further.

Kanaabi urged every Ugandan to ensure that the space is not closed.

Mathias Mulumba Mayombwe, a trainer with Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF), said muzzling the press is meant to intimidate journalists.

He said setting such conditions would force journalists to work less freely.

Mathias Mulumba urged journalists to discuss the set conditions but warned government to know that the more it muzzles press freedom the more Uganda’s democracy is weakened.

Dr. Peter Mwesige said the set conditions were just a regurgitation of the Nation Media Group editorial policy.

He, however, wondered how journalists would determine how a particular story would cause ethnic or security tension.

Dr. Mwesige advised that had government wished to limit publication of particular stories such guidelines should have been defined.

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