The free media has to be independent
Posted Thursday, October 10 2013 at 01:00
We are under no illusions about how far the free media can push the boundaries in a country like Uganda, which is still taking infantile steps on the narrow path to full democracy. Our reporting will occasionally unsettle the authorities.
As Uganda marked her 51st independence day yesterday, it provided another opportunity for reflection upon the freedom which was won in October 1962.
Independence gave Ugandans the liberty to enjoy their democratic rights, including freedom of speech and the press. This has been a difficult year for the free media. This newspaper and our sister radio stations were closed by the government in May after our premises were sealed off as a scene of an unspecified crime.
It is, therefore, not true, as the President said in an Al Jazeera interview at the end of last month, that we were closed because we “are very irresponsible, attack other people’s rights, do not have professional responsibility.” The President also said we “are just open liars, [and that] that was the reason we had to discipline them but eventually we opened them.”
Daily Monitor is a Nation Media Group outlet. The Group has elaborate editorial policy guidelines which we shared with the government during the unfortunate period of our closure. Under those guidelines, the Group recognises that freedoms of speech and of the press are crucial to any democracy or an emerging democracy. A free, independent press is among the most important institutions in a democratic country and Uganda’s Constitution, indeed, recognises this in Article 29.
As a social institution, the press enables different views to be expressed. It is the duty of the press to publish information that should be in the public domain and to uncover and disclose matters that ought to be subjected to public debate, scrutiny or criticism in keeping with the universally acknowledged principle that the media’s primary responsibility is to the people.
Our guidelines also contain core values amongst which are fairness, independence, veracity and accuracy in reporting. There are times when, like other media houses, we may fall short of our own set standards. But whenever that happens we endeavour to discharge our duty to publish a timely correction.
We are under no illusions about how far the free media can push the boundaries in a country like Uganda, which is still taking infantile steps on the narrow path to full democracy. Our reporting will occasionally unsettle the authorities. The story which led to this newspaper’s closure is one such a situation but it does not qualify us as liars.