UGANDA: CRITIC OF MUSEVENI LANGUISHES IN JAIL BECAUSE “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION DOES NOT EXIST”.

Below: Media dialogue in progress in Gulu.

Media“There is this new social media where everybody is crazy about scoop. Don’t you think that what happened to Dr. Stella Nyanzi can affect any other person in Uganda?”

“You have no absolute freedom. Don’t include political sentiments and opinions which are not balanced. You will lose one hundred percent trust because you will create conflict. You have no immunity to the laws of Uganda.”

GULU-UGANDA: As the world prepares to celebrate World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2017; media watchdog – Reporters Without Borders, reports that eight journalists, two “Netizens” and one media assistant has so far been killed worldwide in 2017 alone.

Netizens is a portmanteau of the words “Internet and Citizens” as in “Citizens of the Net”.

The report further says 193 journalists, 166 netizens and 10 media assistants were imprisoned since the year began.

No wonder, therefore, that, the Global Theme for celebrating this year’s  World Press Freedom Day has been chosen to be: “Critical  Minds for Critical Times: media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.

The issue of safety of journalists and the issue of impunity by perpetrators who violate press freedom is critical here.

In Uganda, the day will be marked under the theme: “Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information to foster more inclusive societies”.

Ugandans also remember April 14, 2017 as a dark day for netizens because this is the day on which a popular critic of President Museveni had been incaserated because she allegedly insulted the person of the President when she called him “a pair of buttocks” in a Facebook post.

Dr. Stella Nyanzi got in trouble with the first family after the President’s wife and Minister of Education, Ms. Janet Museveni, told the nation that government does not have the money to provide free sanitary pads to school pupils. This was a presidential pledge President Museveni made in the 2016 campaign.

Shortly after the announcement of Ms. Museveni, Dr. Nyanzi started using social media to raise money to buy sanitary pads and distribute to primary school girls, a move which did not go down well with government.

In December 1993, the United Nations General Assembly gazzetted May 3, as World Press Freedom Day to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.

It is for this very reason that Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) and Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) organized a regional pre-World Press Freedom Day dialogue for multiple stakeholders to discuss the state of the media today, on April 26, 2017 in Gulu.

The US Mission in Kampala sponsored the dialogue. Similar dialogues were also taking place in Western and Eastern Uganda.

In Gulu, the dialogue was held under the theme: “Freedom of expression and freedom of information to foster more inclusive societies”. Former Commissioner of information, now Gulu University don, Dr. Okullu-Mura, asks if what has happened to Dr. Nyanzi may not affect any other Ugandan.

“Although rights to access of information and freedom of expression are guaranteed in the 1995 Uganda Constitution, we are guided that this right is not absolute. Your right stops where my right starts”, says Dr. Okullu-Mura, in his keynote exposé.

“There is this new social media where everybody is crazy about scoop. Don’t you think that what happened to Dr. Stella Nyanzi can affect any other person in Uganda?”

He says since 1952 when the electronic media (mostly radio) was introduced in Uganda by our colonial masters, owners of media outlets dictate how we disseminate our issues by censoring the content of what we disseminate.

The District Police Commander, Mr. Martin Okoyo, observed that although the police in Gulu are committed to respecting journalists because they are important agents of society, they should report with responsibility.

“You have no absolute freedom. Don’t include political sentiments and opinions which are not balanced. You will lose one hundred percent trust because you will create conflict. You have no immunity to the laws of Uganda”, says Mr.Okoyo.

Another discussant, Mr. Martin Alliker, from the civil society organization, challenged journalists to be a voice of the voiceless by not allowing their writings to be determined by few individuals because the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the 1948 declaration of human rights.

“As long as we subject ourselves to a few individuals to make decisions, then we are heading for trouble. The truth will set us free. You are the conscience of the common man”, says Alliker.

 

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