Lawmakers have raised concern over what they have termed “deteriorating” media freedom in the country, saying that this impacts negatively on the tourism sector.
Opposition Chief Whip, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said that Uganda is now been ranked 125 out of 180 in media freedom.
“We have been moving from 101 to 117. We are now belonging to category four as categorized by Reporters Without Borders,” said Ssemujju Nganda.
Reporters without borders is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Paris that conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information and freedom of the press.
He attributed the decline to tax on social media, arrests and beating of journalists covering demonstrations and most recently switching off of radio stations hosting opposition leaders.
“To make matters worse, as we approach the World Press Freedom Day, the Director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has issued a draconian directive ordering 13 radio stations to suspend senior journalists for covering Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi,” said Ssemujju Nganda.
He noted that such incidences have a negative bearing on the tourism sector because they taint the image of the country.
“You can only promote tourism by marketing a country repeatedly, but the moment you have negative coverage, even if you market your country, people who want to visit will keep checking websites to see which country is safe,” Ssemujju Nganda added.
He asked government to reverse a directive to suspend senior journalists.
“The Minister of Internal Affairs should put sanctions against individual actors tainting the image of the country,” Ssemujju Nganda said.
Hon. Muhammad Nsereko (Ind. Kampala Central) advised government to engage in negotiations with those media houses accused of breaching broadcasting standards, as opposed to resorting to suspending journalists.
“Uganda relies largely on tourism and scenarios like seeing opposition leaders being dragged out of radio stations and teargassed are not good for the country’s image. We all need Uganda and together, we can make it better,” said Nsereko.
Hon. Jack Wamai Wamanga (FDC, Mbale Municipality) cautioned that the whole world is following what is happening in Uganda.
“Uganda is being condemned and tourists are not coming to the country,” said Wamai Wamanga.
The Minister of State for Housing, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi gave assurance that government is committed to promoting media freedom.
“I have seen one of the letters from UCC to NBS television and UCC is saying they have breached some of the broadcasting standards. One of the remedies available for such institutions could be challenging such directives,” said Baryomunsi.
He also refuted allegations from MPs, Hon. Francis Mwijukye (FDC, Buhweju county) and Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi Muhammad (DP, Butambala County) that government has banned opposition leaders from appearing on broadcast media houses.
“That kind of directive has not been issued by government. Any other opposition leader has not been banned from appearing on public media. I own a radio station in Kanungu and I have not received any directive,” said Baryomunsi.
The media has been awash with reports of unfair treatment of opposition leaders, Dr Kiiza Besigye and Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi.
It is reported that these leaders have been denied opportunities to appear on talk shows in different media houses, with directives from UCC to suspend journalists who host such leaders.