Press Freedom in Uganda Shrinking - Foundation Office Uganda and South Sudan
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Negative interference by the state, economic pressure and self-censorship are the main threats that cause press freedom to shrink in Uganda. This is according to media practitioners who convened on the International Press Freedom Day on 3rd May 2012 in order to discuss current challenges for the media in Uganda. The public dialogue was organised by the Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF) with support from KAS.
The opening presentation was given by Prof. Paul Voakes, Director of the Faculty for Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado, US. He gave an overview of recent developments of press freedom worldwide. He emphasised that in 2011 Uganda witnessed a remarkably sharp decline in press freedom. In the ranking by Reporters Without Borders, Uganda dropped by 43 positions to position 139 in international comparison.
Afterwards a range of Ugandan experts and media practitioners gave their perspectives and tried to identify the factors that caused the sharp decline. Government interference was identified as the major threat. According to the experts, in the recent past the government had passed and prepared a number of restrictive laws. In addition, the developments around last year’s „walk to work“ protests were used for a significant media crackdown including brutal attacks on journalists by security officers.
In addition to that, a number of internal factors were identified as well. For example, due to economic pressure and the fear of losing advertisement contracts there is a worrying trend of self-censorship.
In the concluding discussion participants emphasised the need for a continuous professionalisation of the media in Uganda. At the same time, they called on the Ugandan government to commit to the protection of press freedom, to withdraw repressive laws, and to stop attacks on journalists by security officers.