By Julius Odeke
As the World commemorates the World Press Day Uganda’s practicing journalists have registered their dissatisfaction with President Yoweri Museveni’s comments that ‘minimum wage is not a priority for Ugandans’.
They say, president Museveni is not mindful about the living conditions that journalists in Uganda are facing saying, “No wonder that is why the state harasses journalists with a lot of clampdown on the media outlets in the country.”
While attending the release of a report titled, “The Quest for Safety and Security of Journalists in Uganda” by Human Rights Network for Journalists- Uganda (HRNJ-U) at Speke Hotel in the capital Kampala, the scribes cite government’s failure to protect them by its failure to set up a standard minimum wage something that they have attributed as a sole cause of the 75% poor freelance journalists in the country.
They say this has brought about poor remuneration of the media practitioners as one of the factors hence affecting the industry.
Members of Parliament recently tabled the private bill that calls upon the setting of a standard minimum wage that will protect workers from being underpaid by the ‘mushrooming investors’ who have taken the country by storm.
However, on May 1, as the world marked the World Labour Day in the eastern district of Tororo about 240 kilometres away from the capital, President Yoweri Museveni told Ugandans to stop lamenting about minimum wage but instead concentrate on addressing factors that can lower the cost of production.
President Museveni retorted: ‘’with today’s fewer jobs, an employer can sack you but another person can accept to do the same job at a much lower salary. So, the best option is to have a lot of investors and increase the demand for jobs and the wage will rise.’’
The report says, “These draconian policies that Uganda has adopted in favour of the investors have denied journalists their livelihood rendering them the poorest employees in the country.”
The report also points out that the volatile nature of insecurity against journalists requires that the security operatives be conceptualized in a wider scope other than just mere physical protection from harm. “It should stretch to involve the psychological security of the journalists in regard to their ability to do journalistic work without constant fear that they are being watched.”
“Uganda has resorted to the use of repressive legal regimes to harass journalists and threaten their security and safety, where state agents especially the police have taken on direct physical attacks against media personnel including shootings and attempted shootings,” added the report.
The report also records a total of 31 violations on journalists in 2010/2011 while 46 alone in 2012 mainly by the Uganda police, while others were harassed by the auxiliary forces making the total number of journalists attacked since 2010 to-date to be 192 journalists countrywide.
The report partly attributes this harassments to the rampant demonstrations and riots that were sparked off after Dr Kizza Besigye the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) flag bearer losing in the 2011 presidential elections and he then thought to seek a public opinion through what the named as ‘Walk-to-Work’ demonstrations that saw many people together with journalists covering those heinous demonstrations attacked by the security agents mostly executed by the police.