MPs, journalists pledge to promote media freedom

1822 Views Kampala, Uganda
Members of Parliament and journalists have today agreed to cooperate in order to carve laws and regulation that enable and professionalize and not curtail freedom of media and expression.
The MPs and journalists were today having a discussion on the Journalist and Press Amendment Bill 2010 which proposes a number of radical provisions which journalists view are aimed at curtailing freedom of the media and expression.
The dialogue was organized by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in an attempt to discuss the developments that are likely to negate on media freedom.
The bill, which is now at cabinet level, plans to, among other things, exercise more control on the Media Council and introduces the annual registration and licensing of newspapers.
The bill also tries to regulate media content by decreeing that newspapers should ensure nothing prejudicial to national security or that amounts to economic sabotage is published.
In his opening remarks, ACME’s executive director Dr Peter Mwesige, said the media are not merely opposed to regulation but is of the view that the amendments are intended to restrict media freedom and expression.
Mwesigye reasoned that laws and regulation should not curtail media freedoms but rather serve legitimate aims and promote independence.
He said the concerns of the state border on professionalism which does not warrant amending the law to constitute more restrictions to freedom of expression.
Mwesige said the best way out would be to exercise professional interventions to use already established civil instead of the proposed criminal sanctions.
Suleiman Madada, a former journalist and now State Minister for the Elderly and the Disabled, said it would be prudent for the media to engage the MPS at committee level when the bill is being formulated.
Madada said it would not be good for the media to fight the amendment but rather give propositions they think would be good for the media.
Observing that the media is deeply divided, Madada called for a united front and the cultivation of allies at many levels to push the media agenda forward.
Rhonah Nsiima, the woman MP for Kabale, urged media owners and managers to value the journalists so that even MPs and the general public can begin to value them.
Monica Amoding, the national female youth MP, said there is needs for media owners to improve the remuneration of journalists to enable them avoid unprofessional behaviour like taking bribes.
Controversy arose after army MP and the chairman of the military court martial, Brigadier General Charles Angina said the media becomes bad when they begin to report classified information, thereby endangering national security.
Angina argued that publishing information like troops movement is wrong and unpatriotic and urged journalists to be professional and responsible.
Dr Peter Mwesige hit back arguing that using the cover of classified information and laws to cover up abuses of power is unconstitutional, adding that to what purpose would that be.
Mwesige said classified information that hides abuse of power should be published, overridden by public interest.


About the author

David Rupiny
In his own words, David Rupiny says, "I am literally a self-trained journalist with over 12 years of experience. Add the formative, student days then I can trace my journalism roots to 1988 when as a fresher in Ordinary Level I used to report for The Giraffe News at St Aloysius College Nyapea in northern Uganda.

In addition to URN for which I have worked for five years now, I have had stints at Radio Paidha, Radio Pacis, Nile FM and KFM. I have also contributed stories for The Crusader, The New Vision and The Monitor. I have also been a contributor for international news organisations like the BBC and Institute for War and Peace Reporting. I am also a local stringer for Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

I am also a media entrepreneur. I founded The West Niler newspaper and now runs Rainbow Media Corporation (Rainbow Radio 88.2 FM in Nebbi). My areas of interest are conflict and peacebuilding, business, climate change, health and children and young people, among others."