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)
Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression in Uganda, laws enacted in the name of national security have negated the constitutional provisions in practice. For example, in October three journalists working for the Monitor, a popular private newspaper, were arrested and charged with sedition in relation to a story alleging soldiers were secretly trained as policemen in order to maintain the police forces under military control. Several statutes also require journalists to be licensed and meet certain standards.
In a continuation of a trend seen in 2006, journalists were harassed, intimidated, and censored in Uganda in 2007. In March, the Ugandan Journalists Association (UJA) called for the government to protect journalists covering court cases against opposition groups and critical demonstrations and end police harassment of these reporters. This push by the UJA came after two separate cases of police brutality against journalists working for the private New Vision – Chris Ahimbisibwe, a reporter and Richard Semakula, a photographer – while covering cases in regional high courts. In October a private radio station in southwest Uganda was forced off the air for several days after unknown assailants poured acid on its transmitter in an attack believed to have been prompted by a program critical of the local government. A rival station had earlier dropped the same program after a meeting with local security officials. However, it was the official media regulator, the Broadcasting Council (BC), that was primarily responsible for government efforts to censor the media. For example, in February 2007 Nation Television Uganda went off the air after officials at the BC switched off the station's transmitter and confiscated its network receivers for alleged "noncompliance of the industry's technical standards." The station remained closed at the end of the year. Similarly, in August the BC suspended a presenter of the popular Capital FM radio station for alleged violation of the "minimum broadcasting standards." During a show in which the station hosted a lesbian gay activist who used what the BC considered to be "unacceptable language," the suspended host said he had "no problem" with homosexuality while the other two presenters opposed it.
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 control 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 ban on new radio stations, which was imposed in 2003 and widely disregarded in practice without penalty, was lifted this year for upcountry radio stations; however, it still holds for Kampala. The state broadcasters, including Radio Uganda, the only national radio station, wield considerable clout and are generally viewed as sympathetic to the government. There are no official restrictions on internet access. Access to the Internet increased during the year, with approximately 2.5 percent of the population accessing it in 2007.
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