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Stand with Human Rights Defenders in the media fraternity on World Press freedom Day, 3rd May 2019

The 3rd May 2019 marks the 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day. This year’s theme is: Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation. This day is jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The main event took place in Addis Ababa, on 1-3 May at the African Union Headquarters.

The purpose of this day is to defend the media from attacks on their independence, pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world and celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.

The number of events being held in Addis Ababa and internationally, under the 2019 theme, will address key priorities for the World and for Africa. Some of these key priorities include; how the digital era is affecting electoral communications; medias role in democracy through discrediting professional journalism, and disrupting internet access; and media’s potential to contribute to a culture of sustainable peace and democracy. Uganda has seen a high rate of growth of a dynamic and vibrant media industry covering different interests and views, journalists play a key role in the protection and promotion of human rights in Uganda by exposing human rights violations such as the violation of the right to life attributed to mob justice, human sacrifice as well as the right to property with the main focus on land issues. Yet journalists in Uganda have faced some challenges as they exercise their right to seek receive and impart information including reports of some journalists being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment; arbitrary deprivation of poverty and unlawful arrests sometimes including instances of charges under laws that courts have declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution. There have also been reports of journalists being denied access to news scenes and their equipment being confiscated, damaged or destroyed, as well as operating under poor working conditions with no safety and protection gear. There is also the growing problem of low professionalism among journalists, which has in some cases led to irresponsible, inaccurate and unbalanced media reports that have had the potential to excite and inflame rather than inform. A 2016 report by HRNJ-Uganda, it was noted that Journalists experienced 135 human rights violations and the police was the main violator of their rights. The Human Rights Centre Uganda(HRCU) recognizes that journalists are Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) that require protection and promotion of their rights. HRCU has collaborated with Journalists all over Uganda and ensure that they are invited to speak on panels at our Annual Forum to raise awareness of their suffering and violations of their rights.

On Thursday 2nd of May, there was a Media Dialogue to celebrate World Press Freedom Day at Hotel Africana. MadamThe Executive Director of HRCU Mdse Margaret Sekaggya, the Executive Director of HRCU was in attendance and gave a speech highlighting the importance of professionalism amongst Journalists in Uganda. On Friday 3rd May, there was a March in celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

Recommendations to the Government and its agencies;

1. Uphold its duty to respect, protect and fulfil the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression

2. Implement recommendations it adopted during Uganda’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in 2011.

3. Consider a visit to Uganda by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression as a sign of our country’s commitment to promoting this right.

4. Review all media laws to assess their compliance with international human rights standards in order to implement law reforms that would improve the media regulatory environment and to expedite the process of erasing from the law books, all press laws that have been nullified by the Courts of Law.

Recommendations to Civil Society;

1. Advocate for the rights of Journalists and raise awareness about the human rights violations that they face.

2. Call out and speak out against the violators of Journalists rights.

3. Capacity build journalists about professionalism within their occupation.

4. Insist that media houses provide the safety measures required for the unique work that journalists do.

Recommendations to Development Partners;

1. Provide funds for trainings on security and safety of Journalists.

2. Provide funds for the resources needed to ensure security and safety of Journalists.

3. Monitor and evaluate the use of these resources and safety skills within the media houses in Uganda.

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