Freedom of the Press 2009 - Uganda
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Uganda, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b2741f126.html [accessed 6 March 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 20 (of 30)
Political Environment: 20 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 13 (of 30)
Total Score: 53 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression, laws enacted in the name of national security – including the Antiterrorism Act of 2002 – have often negated such constitutional provisions in practice, and the government continues to harass journalists.
Several statutes, most notably the Press and Media Law of 1995, require journalists to be licensed and meet certain standards like the possession of a diploma in journalism. Journalists must renew their licenses each year, though this provision is frequently overlooked.
Uganda is one of only three countries on the continent with a freedom of information law.
The government's aggressive application of several repressive laws to control the media has led to widespread self-censorship.
The government regularly uses security agents to harass, intimidate, and detain journalists who are critical of the government or the president. Andrew Mwenda – a veteran political journalist, government critic, and editor of the private bimonthly magazine the Independent – had several run-ins with the government during the year. In April, the Independent was raided and Mwenda was arrested, then released on bail, for being in possession of "seditious materials." Also in April, security agents arrested him for alleging on a popular talk show that the president was not paying taxes on his businesses. By the end of 2008, Mwenda was fighting 21 criminal charges.
Independent media outlets, including more than two dozen daily and weekly newspapers as well as about 100 private radio and television stations, have mushroomed since the government loosened controls on new outlets in 1993. They are often highly critical of the government and offer a range of opposition views. However, high annual licensing fees for radio and television stations place some financial restraints on the broadcast media. A 2008 study by the East African Media Institute alleged that most private radio stations were owned by government supporters or people affiliated with the government.
A ban on new radio stations, which was imposed in 2003 and widely disregarded in practice without penalty, was lifted in 2007 for upcountry radio stations. It remains in place for the capital, Kampala. The state broadcasters, including Radio Uganda, the only national radio station, wield considerable clout and are generally viewed as sympathetic to the government.
The state-run print media have gained a reputation for editorial independence despite the fact that many of their top editors are selected by government officials. In fact, the state-owned New Vision has reported critically about the government so regularly that the president has on occasion threatened to fire the paper's editors.
There are no official restrictions on access to international broadcasting services or the internet. Internet use became more popular during the year, but only 2.4 percent of the population could access the medium.