Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A statement on Media stakeholders meeting held in Kampala

Kampala, 23rd/May/2011: Human Rights groups and Civil Society Organizations have joined the campaign demanding government to respect and the protect freedom of expression and media freedom in Uganda.

In a media stakeholders meeting held in Kampala on the 23rd/may/2011, attended by international and local human rights organizations and activists, media managers, owners, editors, journalists and leaders of different media organizations/associations, the participants expressed concern over the increasing attacks on the media freedom and freedom of expression by security apparatus.

The media organizations/ associations included Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), Uganda Journalists Association (UJA), Uganda Media Development Foundation (UMDF), Uganda News Papers Proprietors’ and Publishers Association (UNEPPA) and Editors’ Forum.

This was in response to an earlier meeting on 13th-May-2011 by media organizations at Grand Imperial in Kampala over the increased brutality from police and the army against Ugandans and journalists. They argued that freedom of expression and media freedom not only journalists but all Ugandans.

It is in light of this that the broader stakeholders meeting have resolved to back the media advocacy campaign which among other demands, slapped a ban on government activities namely; Uganda Media Center, Uganda Police Force and Uganda People’s Defense Forces demanding that government owns up to all human rights violations committed by its forces, make a written apology to journalists and Ugandans and guarantee that journalists will not be attacked by security forces in such a violent manner again.

Other demands include; government to meet all medical expenses incurred by journalists as a result of physical attacks, compensate all damaged and destroyed journalists’ tools of trade and prosecuting all errant security personnel who attacked and brutally beat up the journalists on 12th-May-2011 and on other occasions.

The stakeholders meeting was intended to bring on board different players with a view of broadening the media advocacy campaign and to seek support from media owners, managers, editors, local and international human rights organizations.

The meeting decried the way freedom of expression has been reduced to mere businesses in Uganda where in most cases employers resort to protecting their businesses other than defending fundamental rights and freedoms and their reporters/ workers who suffer blatant attacks from those who are supposed to protect –he security people.

The participants also condemned President Museveni’s move to amend the constitution in order to deny suspects bail for a period of six months. They feared that if Museveni got his way, more than 20 journalists facing flimsy charges and out on bail would be imprisoned. They said such an action would have a chilling effect on the work of the media in Uganda.

Participants stressed the need for building capacity of journalists in areas of safety and security while in the field in order to manage chaotic situations. They appealed to all media owners and other players to join the campaign in order to address the challenges that impact negatively on the enjoyment of freedom of expression and media freedom in Uganda.

The stakeholders agreed to continue with a media blackout on government institutions of the police, army and Uganda media center as a way to press government to respond to the journalists’ cries and threats from the security.

The meeting resolved therefore;

• To drag errant police officers and UPDF soldiers to courts of law
• Build capacities of journalists in safety and security awareness
• Freelance journalists to analyze and assess assignments that may compromise their security, and shun them where applicable
• Continue to be united and engage with media owners and other players for a sustained safety advocacy campaign.
• Criticized efforts by government to divide the media by talking to smaller groups in a bid to pre-empt a broader and more formidable advocacy campaign.

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