Fresh revelations about the governmentâ€™s plan to amend the Press and Journalist Act (1995) ahead of the 2011 election have sent shockwaves throughout the journalism community. Many see it as an attempt to further curtail press freedoms.
The Independent has obtained a leaked copy of the cabinet-approved principles for a bill and it appears to have significantly sharper teeth than any previous media legislation.
The bill seeks to introduce new licensing conditions for newspapers and to empower the rather moribund Media Council by providing it with the ability to close media houses that violate them. Its Section 5.1.7 calls for a strengthening of the disciplinary committee of Media Council. It expands upon the need for annual licensing for newspapers by the Media Council and changes the composition of the council so that the Minister of Information can personally appoint the allegedly-independent board.
When shown the document, Dr. Peter Mwesige, Executive Director of the African Centre for Media Excellence, put it starkly: â€œThe proposed amendments are not merely a threat to journalists and the media; they are a threat to free expression and democracy.â€
For Mwesige, the intention is to create a Media Council which will in effect be able to operate like the Broadcasting Council, closing radio stations at will. â€œClearly,â€ he argued, â€œthe government is interested in control of the media, not regulation.â€
Section 5.1.8. is perhaps even more disturbing, if only for its vague wording. Its aim is:
To amend the existing Act to create offences and penalties against media houses that publish material prejudicial to national security, stability, and unity or utterances that are injurious to Ugandaâ€™s relations with her neighbors or friendly countries or utterance and publish materials that tantamount to [sic] economic sabotageÂ (bold in the original).
As one prominent Kampala-based lawyer said, the usage of nebulous phrases like â€˜national securityâ€™ and â€˜public moralityâ€™ are indicative of the billâ€™s true nature not as a legal regulatory tool but a political one. He noted here that â€˜national securityâ€™ is really regime security.Â These sections of the proposed Bill act as a means for someone in power to say â€œif I donâ€™t like that thing then I will say itâ€™s contrary to â€˜national securityâ€™ and I will close it down.â€
The lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity noted after glancing over the principles for the bill, â€œConsidering elections coming and all these issues at CBS and the media generally, I think itâ€™s just an attempt at having more power, to come down on people and close down that space.â€
Dr. Mwesige and the lawyer were both echoing a 2004 Terrorism profile of Uganda by the London-based surveillance watchdog Privacy International. It quoted Makerere University communications lecturer Adolf Mbaine who wrote forebodingly, â€œThe point has been made before that media freedoms have implications for the general freedoms of expression; and that when media freedoms suffer, the other will most likely follow in the same order.â€
Minister of Information and National Guidance Kabakumba Masiko, who is driving the Bill, says people should not try to tie it to the coming elections. â€œThis process has been ongoingâ€¦we are trying to streamline the operations of the media,â€ she said, adding that it is a transparent and consultative process by which bills become laws exists in Uganda and that all relevant parties will become a part of the process when it enters parliament for approval.
She echoes her predecessor Kirunda Kivejinjaâ€™s comments in a 2008 interview with The Independent, arguing that the original act must now be amended in order to â€œfill the gaps and strengthen the practice of the media.â€
Uganda prides itself on its relatively liberal media laws and free press but amendments to an old law have some wondering just how far that freedom extends.Â
In a June 2008 parliamentary meeting, President Museveni held up a 2005 issue of the Daily Monitor and proclaimed, â€œA newspaper has no right to damage our future. You publish one false story, immediately it is on the internet and all over the world, you have no right.â€
Since then, journalists and media houses throughout Uganda have endured hard times.
The suspension of Mengo Kingdomâ€™s Central Broadcasting Service radio station, during the September riots last year, and its continued clampdown has prompted serious complaints from rights groups and legal activists.
A number of journalists last year had alternately been charged, arraigned, interrogated, suspended, fired and even barred from practicing journalism over allegations ranging from criminal defamation to inciting violence and theft. The precarious state where many Ugandan journalists found themselves is all the more tenuous now given fears of instability and intimidation in the forthcoming election year. Despite the recent U.S. Congress directive placing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in charge of monitoring the elections and actively promoting, among other things, freedom of the media; the proposed amendments to the Press and Journalist Act are still seen by critics as feeding into those anxieties.
What critics seem most perplexed about is that the bill simply seems unnecessary. According to Mwesige, â€œthe categories that the government is proposing to introduce are not acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.â€ Indeed a legal process for dealing with errant journalists exists.
Arinaitwe Rugyendo, director and proprietor of The Red Pepper tabloid newspaper noted that â€œthe laws are clear, we have been arrested left, right and center. We have been charged in court. We are facing sedition, libel and defamation. Members of the public have successfully sued journalist and won cases. That is what is should be. The state has arrested journalists and incarcerated them. So that means the legal system is working.â€
In September 2009, a letter addressed to President Museveni signed by a group of thirty media watchdogs, NGOs, and activist groups called Uganda a country where â€œmedia freedom is in perilâ€, beseeching the President and his government to make assurances that media practitioners would not be subjected to degrading or inhuman treatment and that the state would engage with the media in a civil matter, respecting the rule of law. Three months later, a New Vision article reported the governmentâ€™s plan to amend the Press and Journalist Act, in order to â€œregulate the work of the mediaâ€. Dismissing concerns that the new amendment was unfriendly to stakeholders, Minister Masiko defended the Governmentâ€™s action of shutting down some media houses, arguing it was justified for the good of all Ugandans.
written by Des.M, January 29, 2010
written by neverfull, July 04, 2010
written by shrink wrap, July 11, 2010
written by strapping machine, July 11, 2010
written by welding rod, July 12, 2010
written by louis vuitton neverfull mm, July 14, 2010
written by feraewarewa, July 16, 2010
written by carton sealer, August 04, 2010
written by christian louboutin, August 07, 2010
written by Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys, August 19, 2010
written by dreamy gift house, August 05, 2011
written by oakley glasses, April 09, 2012
written by http://www.michael-korsonline.com, October 05, 2012