Journalists and Media Houses all over the world on Sunday celebrated World Press Freedom Day 2020 for the first time in infrequent way. This is because of the current lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic in which some journalists are working from home, and many media houses have reduced number of their staff who were unable to march – in celebrations.
In Uganda, there were no procession from one end to another like it has been for the past years. This year’s celebration[s] has been made virtually [online], and through sharing communications using different social media platforms.
Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC), a political party that has [often] engaged journalists and media houses across the country right from the time she was in power to date, has commended media and journalists on their day.
In a press statement released on 3, May 2020, the UPC national chairman, Mr Lawrence Okae, said: “Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) joins the Fourth Estate to mark the World Press Freedom Day, under the theme; Journalism without Fear or Favour, which is observed annually on May 3.”
“The media plays a very important role in the development of any given economy; as they can facilitate trade, transmitting ideas and Innovation across boundaries, expose corruption, keep a check on public policy through throwing a spot light on government action, let people voice diverse opinions on governance and reform, bring health and education information to remote areas more so at this material time and among other things,” the message he authored, on behalf of the party, continues.
“As UPC, we recognize their role and contribution to the development of our economy, and citizen in awareness and quality of life! However, this day is coming at the backdrop of the global threat of COVID-19 pandemic as it is throwing in a whole range of new experience, challenges and fears!”
Among the challenges the opposition political party has observed, includes;
1. The COVID-19 has led to suspension of a majority of freedoms in most countries, where lockdown is being implemented. This equally affects members of the Fourth Estate who find it pretty difficult to perform their duties since they are not fully enjoying the freedom of press and expression. These are their fundamental rights!
2. UPC is making use of this World Freedom Day, to put it clearly that COVID-19 pandemic has given us very harsh lessons towards Nationalism and Nation-building. For instance;
(a). Most Journalists depend on public transportation. It is now very crucial for the (Media Houses and Journalists) to evolve their own specialised means of transportation.
(b). The welfare of the Journalists is always neglected and the lockdown has exposed this neglect to quite an alarming levels. Most of the Journalists work on part time basis, few are salaried! In this crisis a good number of them are challenged and those (some) who are salaried are also facing wage cuts. This is unfair and should be reviewed!
(c).The security forces during this global pandemic crisis at times overreact and send shock waves out to society. The manner they have been violent in some cases as they enforce the presidential directive need a review. Similarly, the nature of arrest of Journalists as we have observed from the media reports before, does not promote accommodative journalism and rule of law. This method of work should be revised!
3. The media need to be very much accurate, efficient and faster in their work. COVID-19 pandemic is a very new experience that is bound to be interpreted differently, with so many ideas, conspiracy theories taking a centre stage. An efficient Media Industry should project an important central message that bring the country together, regardless of the day to day challenges.
4. Finally, Uganda People’s Congress requests the Government to introduce a special allowance or hardship allowance to the members of the Fourth Estate since they are working in extremely very very challenging and difficult conditions. They need an extra incentive or motivation as we celebrate the World Press Freedom Day.
Similarly, Paul Amoru Omiat who’s the Dokolo North MP, in his message on World Press Freedom Day, asked government to offer journalists much needed space.
Mr Amoru is the current chairperson of Parliamentary Forum on Media. “Media occupies a very critical and strategic space to provide information needed for the benefit of the population to make the country a better place,” he said, in his message on Sunday.
“Every year, 3rd May is set aside as a special day to remind governments and indeed the population of the World about the central contribution, the critical role that our media plays to make our lives and our World a better place.”
“It is a reminder that the space, the freedom and protection of journalists in their line of duty is absolutely necessary. We know journalists face lots of challenges ranging from low pay, intimidation, threats from security agencies, governments, big and multinational cooperation but journalists have continued to stand the ground and to provide information without fear or favour,” his message partly reads.