Updated at 1259 GMT on Thursday 03rd June 2021 by Prossy A Will
KAMPALA – On 3rd May 2021 Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Press Freedom Day under a theme “Information as a Public Good” Several Ugandan Media and Journalists Association convened in different places to reflect on the work of men and women devoting their lives to breaks news and tell stories.
United Nations Resident Coordinator and head of Security to Uganda H.E Rosa Malango delivered a key note address at the main celebrations held in Nakawa IT Hub Convention centre.
In her remarks H.E. Rosa Malango, acknowledged the representative of
The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Judith Nabakooba, Acting Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti, OHCHR Country Representative, Mr. Robert Kotchani
The President, Uganda Journalists Association (UJA), representatives of Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments Representatives of the Private Sector, Civil Society Organisations and Youth Coalition for SDGs.
“On behalf of the United Nations in Uganda, I am delighted to be part of the national commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. Let me begin by expressing our solidarity with all journalists and renewing our commitment to work with journalists associations, media organisations, the Government, development partners and civil society towards a safe and secure working environment for journalists.” Rosa said.
She commended the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Youth Coalition for SDGs for organising this Integrated Cross-Generational Public Dialogue.
“It is my hope that we will soon witness the formal appointment of a new Chairperson for the Uganda Human Rights Commission so that it can resume its full functions at national and international levels.” Rosa noted.
Why is freedom of the press important? World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. The suggestion to establish World Press Freedom Day annually celebrated on 3rd May was made by journalists at Windhoek. “Today, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic African Press. Despite dramatic changes in the media over the past three decades, the Declaration’s urgent call for press freedom and free access to information is as relevant as ever.” she said.
The UN Bodd said that the COVID-19 pandemic has given way to the misinformation pandemic, raising further the importance of Press Freedom. UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his Press Freedom Day message noted that “The global challenges we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic underline the critical role of reliable, verified and universally accessible information in saving lives and building strong, resilient societies.” He also noted that, “During the pandemic, and in other crises including the climate emergency, journalists and media workers help us navigate a fast-changing and often overwhelming landscape of information while addressing dangerous inaccuracies and falsehoods. Free and independent journalism is our greatest ally in combatting misinformation and disinformation. I urge all governments to do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media.”
At this time when countries around the world including Uganda are focused on socio-economic transformation, renewable energy as well as peace and security, freedom of the press must be recognized for its vital role in informing citizens about public affairs, monitoring the actions of government at all levels and ensuring a constructive social compact between citizens and the State on both rights and responsibilities. Freedom of the press has a new dimension resulting from the evolution of the media and technology. With the emergence of citizen journalism, we must address the need to avoid misinformation, incitement and hate speech in the name of public information. We need to look into the financing streams for traditional and new media platforms to ensure that the freedom to convey facts is not subject to patronage. Without a free exchange of information, people cannot meaningfully participate in the positive transformation of their communities, nations and democracies.
“Today we have an opportunity to remind the government of its duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 29 of the Constitution which states everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include the press and other media, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which underscores that “freedom of expression and access to information are fundamental human rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter, and other international and regional human rights treaties.” such as Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as SDG Target 16.10 which is to ‘Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.’ We also have an opportunity to remind ourselves that we have a shared responsibility to exercise our rights without infringing on the rights of others. We can agree that freedom of expression is the foundation for many other rights and gives individuals and communities the right to articulate their opinions without fear of retaliation, intimidation, censorship or punishment.” Rosa explained.
She called for shared responsibility. Rosa added that the global 2030 Agenda marked a paradigm shift towards a more transformative model for sustainable development aiming to secure freedom from fear and freedom from want for all, without discrimination. The SDGs encompass a promise by all nations to pursue “more peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence” with attention to democratic governance, rule of law, access to justice and personal security in Goal 16, as well as sustaining an enabling international environment in Goal 17 and a call to end poverty in all its forms Goal 1, among others. Malango also said that Uganda currently is faced with the impact of COVID-19 on the social and economic situation of the most vulnerable, the impact of climate change on the frequency and scale of natural disasters, the impact of rapid population growth on the need to improve participation of the youth in the economy as well as the impact of increasing incidents of excessive force and corruption
“We must promote peace, justice and strong institutions if we are to encourage innovation, support development and promote adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures against COVID-19 by all. We need to enhance accountability, promote transparency and develop a new code of citizenship. We can begin by identifying positive cultural values and universal principles promoting the concept of Ubuntu – our shared humanity and its equivalent across the various communities in Uganda. Empowering people to seek accountability for implementation of the SDGs is a collective responsibility.”
“As media professionals and citizen journalists, you inform the public about current affairs and influence opinion on a daily basis at national and global levels. You are first line stakeholders in bringing the SDGs to life closer to the wanainchi-population. I invite you to use the SDG targets to interrogate national policies, strategies and initiatives to explore efficiencies, accountability and impact. This is a universal pathway to interrogate modalities of implementation, raise violations and make suggestions on corrective action.” she reminded journalists.
She also noted that SDGs also provide an opportunity for the government entities responsible for law and order to review performance, to identify constraints and to commit to improvements.
Malango recognized Wakiso for being the first district in Uganda to issue a human rights report on 28th April this year, which she said is an important step to improve the relationship between citizens and the Police by providing a framework for accountability and a discussion on performance, incidents and solutions. She encouraged other Districts to emulate this good practice and thanked OHCHR for supporting this initiative.
Malango called upon all media owners, editors, citizens and journalists to espouse the values of Obuntubulamu particularly Obumu-Unity, Obwesimbu-Integrity, Obwerufu- Transparency and Okufaayo-empathy while we focus on eliminating poverty, facilitating good governance, sustaining peace, promoting prosperity and protecting the planet we all call home.
“On behalf of the United Nations system, I wish to convey my deep regrets to the media fraternity for all the pain you have incurred during the past year while carrying out your work. In particular Ashraf Kasirye who was injured in the line of duty in December 2020.”
Malango also called upon the government and media owners to work together to improve the welfare of journalists, to ensure their protection and to support those affected by excessive use of force in the line of duty by creating a trust fund to cover health and other related expenses.
“I also use this opportunity to encourage government to issue rapid updates on action taken in these cases. No journalist should lose their life or their health while pursuing the public good.” said Malango She added that accountability, reconciliation and corrective action are key to rebuild trust in governance systems. She also noted that there are still simmering tensions, some people looking for answers, others spreading misinformation, hate speech and incitement. Intolerance and abuse are rising on social media platforms and spilling into communities and homes.
“We must not take peace for granted as Uganda implements the National Development Plan III and the SDGs.
In this context, allow me to take this opportunity to recognize some of the journalists in Uganda who have played a significant role in contributing to the attainment of the SDGs and the universal values they represent. By giving you certificates of recognition, we convey our gratitude for your sacrifice and for being an inspiration” She said.
- Gerald Tenywa, New Vision: He is a veteran environment journalist with the New Vision and a mentor to young journalists. Environment reporting is seen by many journalists as abstract and boring, but Gerald has persisted in his pursuit of SDG 13 on Climate Action and by doing so, has inspired young journalists including during the training of organised by the Youth Coalition for SDGs and OHCHR last week across the country.
- Mildred Tuhaise, NBS TV: She is a seasoned news anchor and reporter with NBS TV. She has shared her experience with students of journalism at universities to inspiring many future journalists. She has mentored many young journalists over the years particularly in pursuit of SDG 5 on Gender Equality. She is a mentor of the Youth Coalition for SDGs and a source of inspiration to many young women.
- Earnest Kivumbi, HICGI News Agency: Through his online articles he has consistently raised awareness about the SDGs particularly SDG 13 Climate Action and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. He has consistently covered Youth Coalition for SDGs events demonstrating the role of youth as stakeholders in development and also promotes awareness about the SDGs by participating in radio talk shows across the country. He is known for his professionalism and passion.
- Jocylynne Nakibuule, Spark TV: She has reported well researched, informative stories about human rights, gender equality and peace in pursuit of SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. She has kept her audience interested in these critical issues and has dedicated her work to amplify the voice of the voiceless. She remains an inspiration to many.
- Ali Mivule, NTV/Nation Courier Group: He has championed reporting on the wellbeing of refugees and host communities, democracy and human rights helping to bring focus on SDG 1 No Poverty, SDG3 Health and Wellbeing, SDG10 Reduced Inequalities and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. He is dedicated to his work and advocates for peace while speaking out on the respect of human rights of journalists. “We recognize his bravery and dedication, having been injured in the line of duty. His professionalism and sacrifice are an inspiration.” He added.
Ladies and Gentlemen: as I conclude, nationhood is a challenging journey that requires regular exchange of views on values, codes of conduct and aspirations across the whole of society. Sustaining peace, justice, human rights and development is a shared responsibility as these are common goods. We must place equal attention on identifying breaches of trust as we do on disciplinary action and good practices. On behalf of the UN in Uganda, I reiterate our commitment to continue working with journalists, students of journalism, the Government, development partners, civil society and media organisations towards the implementation of the NDP III, the Vision 2040 and the SDGs through the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for Uganda (2021-2025). Nelson Mandela once said, “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.”
Thank you for your attention.
More about Gerald Tenywa
He is a graduate of forestry and also holds a Post Graduate diploma in environment journalism from Makerere University and diploma in Media and Land Governance (MS TCDC, Tanzania).
In the past two decades, Tenywa has covered stories ground breaking stories including the disappearance of a tonne of ivory from the stores of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). He also covered stories on destruction of the largest sanctuary of migratory birds from Europe also known as the white winged black terns at Lutembe bay in Entebbe. Rosebud flower farm expanded into the sanctuary.
He also exposed the give-away of Mabira forest for sugarcane growing and consistently educated the public about the consequences of the give-away of the forest. More recently, Tenywa compiled a series about the give-away of Bugoma forest reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited.
Who is Mildred Tuhaise?
The 30- year-old is a 2013 Information Technology graduate from Makerere University.
She attended Asaba Primary School in Masindi District, Kawempe Mbogo Muslim Secondary School for O’Level and completed Senior Six at St Peters Secondary School, Naalya.
Her major breakthrough in media was at Top TV in 2008 when she joined to sit in for a news anchor on Maternity Leave.
She worked at the station up to 2012 when she joined WBS, which she left in April 2015 for NBS. Tuhaise regards herself as an ambitious go-getter, admitting that she can sometimes get too aggressive which most people do not take too kindly to.