Uganda | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Uganda

Uganda

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

44

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

12

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, but laws enacted ostensibly in the name of national security, together with the harassment of journalists who cover the country's civil war, produce much self-censorship among Ugandan media. Several statutes require journalists to be licensed and meet certain standards, and a sedition law remains in force and has been used to prosecute journalists. The Antiterrorism Act of 2002 provides a possible death sentence for anyone publishing news "likely to promote terrorism," a vague enough charge that it promotes self-censorship. However, in February the Supreme Court gave a boost to freedom of expression by repealing a frequently invoked colonial-era law that permitted criminal charges against journalists for reporting subversive "false news."

Reporters continue to face some harassment and threats at the hands of both police and rebel forces. The Monitor, a leading independent newspaper, was closed briefly in late 2002 over the veracity of a report regarding the government's fight against the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army in the northern part of the country. Media watchdogs report that this incident has had a chilling effect on the newspaper and on free speech generally. Journalists from The Monitor again came under attack in 2004, when a spokesman for the Ugandan army publicly denounced two of them as "rebel collaborators." However, the publication won a legal victory in April when it was exonerated of charges that it had endangered national security by reporting on the civil war in the north, a charge often put forth by officials to intimidate journalists who criticize the government's handling of the war.

Independent media outlets, including more than two dozen daily and weekly newspapers as well as a growing number of private radio and television stations, are often highly critical of the government and offer a range of opposition views. High annual licensing fees for radio and television stations place some financial restraints on the broadcast media. Indeed, as many as 50 radio and television broadcasters were closed in January for failing to pay their operating permits. Plans are in the works to merge Uganda Television and Radio Uganda into a single, autonomous Uganda Broadcasting Corporation. The state broadcasters wield considerable clout and are generally viewed as sympathetic to the government.