What you need to know:
- While all the countries in the East African Community (EAC) improved, it is only in Uganda where the situation worsened for journalists.
The 2022 global press freedom index released by the Reporters Without Borders indicates that Uganda’s press freedom index has continued to backslide, with the country dropping to 132 out of 180.
This drops is seven steps down compared to the 2021 index where the country was ranked 125 out of 180 countries. Uganda’s overall score declined to 46.5, down from 58.9 in 2021, showing that the situation keeps on deteriorating every year.
Kenya was the best ranked country in East Africa, coming at 69th. The country jumped by 33 positions from its 102 in 2021, though its overall score fell from 66 percent to 64 percent. Burundi came second in the region, leaping by 40 positions to 107 in 2022, up from 147 in 2021. Tanzania, DRC and South Sudan occupy positions 123, 125, and 128 respectively, while Rwanda emerged the worst in the region at 136th, four steps below Uganda.
While all the countries in the East African Community (EAC) improved, it is only in Uganda where the situation worsened for journalists. Apart from Kenya and Burundi, the RSF report describes the situation in the rest of the EAC countries as difficult for press freedom.
In Africa, Seychelles emerged the best ranked country, occupying the 13th position, flowed by Namibia (18th) and South Africa in the third spot (32nd).
The report says journalists in Uganda face intimidation and violence nearly on daily basis and that they are regularly targeted by the security operatives.
The country has more than 200 radio stations and some 30 television networks, many of them belonging to members or supporters of the National Resistance Movement, the ruling party.
The report also indicates that President Museveni does not tolerate criticism and regularly indulges in hateful commentary against the press.
“He threatened in 2021 to force the Daily Monitor, the leading independent daily, into bankruptcy. In 2018, he called journalists “parasites”. Authorities routinely interfere directly with the broadcasts of some TV reports, demanding that they be cut from programmes,” the report says.
While the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, media practice is hindered by a series of laws, including those on fraudulent digital activity, anti-terrorism and public order. In 2021, the constitutional court rejected appeals by journalist associations against draconian legal provisions against the media.
According to the report, journalists are among the country’s worst-paid professionals, noting that work contracts are rare and only a few reporters make more than $200 (about Shs707,060) a month.
“Their financial insecurity makes them susceptible to corruption,” the report says. The report adds that several media outlets belong to religious groups, some of which are aligned with the government, such as the Pentecostal movement, which is very influential in the country and has the president’s wife and daughter in its ranks.
According to the report, kidnapping, violence, illegal confinement, arrest, confiscation of equipment are some of the consequences that journalists face if they criticise the regime.
“Museveni’s re-election to a sixth term in 2021 followed an repressive electoral campaign, with more than 40 attacks against media organisations and journalists.
‘‘Officials resorted to censorship – an Internet blackout – and disinformation, accusing some journalists of being Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents. The surveillance of reporters was heightened by the June 2017 creation of a unit of security officers and high-tech experts assigned, among other tasks, to monitor journalists’ social network posts,” the report says.