Journalists and media practitioners across the world yesterday commemorated the annual World Press Day. This year’s World Press Freedom Day was celebrated under the theme, ‘information as a public good’.
The day is celebrated principally as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and to show support for media, which are constant targets for censorship, restraints, threats, and brutality by security forces.
The events of last week and those that panned out just after the January 14 General Election, mirror a country where rights of journalists are not respected and in which security forces act with utmost impunity.
On Wednesday last week, Military Police officers beat up and destroyed equipment belonging to Ms Teddy Nakaliga, a reporter with NTV and Spark TV, and Mr Amon Kayanja of Salt TV, who were covering a demonstration by residents protesting a two-week power blackout in Kayunga Village, Wakiso District.
The brutality came a few days the UPDF and the National Association of Broadcasters had signed a memorandum of understanding following the clobbering of journalists who were covering National Unity Platform leader Robert Kyagulanyi in Kololo, Kampala.
While the incident might easily pass as a vote of no confidence in the forces’ willingness to protect journalists or at least let them do their work peacefully – we wish to reiterate that we deserve better and we should be allowed to do the work within the legal framework and spaces.
Important to emphasize here is the many laws that should safeguard journalism.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Back at home, Article 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution says: “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media”. And in Article 41(1) it states: “Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the State or any other organ or agency of the State except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person”.
Many times, these laws are sidestepped and journalists are brutalised for being at the right place, doing the right thing. Some have lost their livelihood and careers and on many instances fail to inform the public, which is their cardinal job description. We, therefore, wish to say to whoever is concerned that we shall not tire to demand the freedoms that are ours and the government must deliberately allow us do our work.