Upcoming journalists from Makerere University are appealing to Members of Parliament to amend existing media laws to enable journalists work freely. At a Parliamentary Forum for Media for youth on Wednesday, the youth cited the Press and Journalist Act 2000 that is currently before court, arguing that it needs to be amended.
At a Parliamentary Forum for Media for youth on Wednesday, the youth cited the Press and Journalist Act 2000 that is currently before court, arguing that it needs to be amended.
Viola Nakiggwe, a third year student of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University, argues that the Act enforces limited media operation with regulation from the Uganda Media Council.
The Law gives the Media Council the power to revoke the license of any media house that publishes materials that amounts to economic sabotage. However, the law does not define what would constitute economic sabotage, but proposes that any person who contravenes the provision should face a sentence of up to two years in prison.
Nakiggwe says government needs to clarify on how media should operate in regards to media regulation without government interference.
A second year student, Nancy Asiku, also raised the issue of journalists’ certification and requirement for a journalist to have a one-year experience before acquiring a certificate which she says needs to be changed.
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Nicholas Opio, who is among a group of lawyers who have dragged government to court over the Press and Journalist Act raises the question of control and regulation. He argues that regulation is supposed to provide a conducive environment to enhance and not inhibit press freedom and where the rules are clear, yet most of the media laws seek to control.
Opio wonders how much journalists are involved in the constitution of bodies such as the Media Council provided for under the Press and Journalist Act as the main stakeholders.
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Simon Kaggwa Njaja, a practicing journalist states that the mistake government is making is to imagine that somebody else should sit and regulate the media.
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Kapelebyong County MP Peter Eriaku in response stated that the laws can be amended on condition that the journalists maintain their ethics since the law was introduced because of failure by the media to self-regulate.
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The Press and Journalist Act was intended to professionalise journalism by creating structures and process through which one can become a journalist and practice journalism as a profession. The makers of the law wanted to make the practice of journalism better, get rid of the quacks and make it a preserve for the educated.
In 2010, the then Information minister Kabakumba Matsiko returned the law to parliament for amendment with government arguing that it was not strong enough in its current form.