Uganda Cabinet Urged to Reject New Press Legislation | Page 71 | Freedom House

Uganda Cabinet Urged to Reject New Press Legislation

Washington

     
In a country that suffers from an increasingly restrictive media environment, proposed legislation amending the 1995 Press and Journalist Act in Uganda will further stifle freedom of expression, according to Freedom House.
 
The Press and Journalist (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which Reuters has reported is currently before the cabinet, would allow for the Minister of Information to appoint the chairman of the Media Council, further eroding the council’s ability to act independently. Additionally, newspapers would require licenses which would then be vulnerable to revocation by the Media Council. To obtain a license, media would be required to demonstrate “proof of existence of adequate technical facilities,” and “social, cultural and economic values,” discouraging the development of new independent press organizations. The bill also criminalizes the publication of material considered by the government to be injurious to national security, stability, the economy or unity.
 
“The government of Uganda has made a regular practice of suppressing voices of dissent,” said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House director of advocacy. “This new law simply gives it carte blanche to criminalize any media reports that go against government policies. Freedom House calls on the Cabinet of Ministers to reject this proposed amendment and do away with any legislation that prevents news organizations from functioning without fear of recrimination.”
 
Freedom of the Press 2009, Freedom House’s annual survey of media freedom, notes that in the last five years Uganda has experienced one of the most dramatic declines in press freedom comparatively, with its global ranking declining from 98th place to 109th place worldwide. The soon to be released 2010 edition of the survey is also expected to report increased incidences of press harassment by government officials through lawsuits and other intimidation leading to a growing level self-censorship.
 
Uganda is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2009.
 
To learn more about Uganda, read:
 
 
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