Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) at a time when the word is in near-total lockdown. Since 1993, journalism has been celebrated in different ways but this year we do so in such a historical manner when we cannot congregate but soldier on virtually.
This year’s theme, ‘Journalism Without Fear or Favour,’ shows that we have to make concrete strategies to liberate the media to be fearless, independent and relevant in exercising its oversight role in society. Censorship and favoritism hinder the media from exploring their full potential in news coverage.
Congratulations to the men and women who make this year’s theme have relevance, ‘Hundreds of journalists in Uganda and world over are putting their lives at the frontline to serve their communities as first responsibility and governments during this difficult time amidst challenges occasioned by the nature of their work.
Despite the risks involved, journalists have saved humanity through useful information to the public and relevant actors. Our critical role in information dissemination and education has been appreciated in different ways.
We, however, note the increasing levels of impunity for crimes against journalists. To this end, we demand those in authority to exercise restraint and observe the rights of journalists and reprimand the perpetrators. Any acts of aggression against journalists is an affront to press freedom.
The world is in a battle against this coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic and information is one weapon among others that we cannot ignore during this pushback. Professionalism in journalism must be upheld in all ways. Professionalism in journalism must be upheld in all ways.
HRNJ-Uganda has documented at least 14 cases of arrests, assaults, detentions, and confiscation of gadgets from journalists while in line of duty during this period of lockdown and curfew in the country. We continue to demand that these affected journalists access justice.
Generally, Press freedom has not improved since last year’s WPFD celebrations as shown in a report that HRNJ-Uganda is about to release. Last year, we documented over 160 cases of abuse and violations against journalists in the course of their work. This exemplifies restrictions on press freedom in Uganda which if left unchecked will hinder good journalism. On this WPFD, we call on government and other development partners to collaborate in a bid to end crimes against journalists.
We urge for ethical and professional journalism at all times.
We wish you a happy virtual celebration. #Staysafe #WPFD
The Author is the Executive Director for Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda