Uganda Slips 43 Places To 139 In Media Freedom Rankings

generic sans-serif; font-size: small;”>The President was yesterday speaking at the 3rd meeting of the 5th session of the 2nd East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) currently sitting at Parliament Building in Kampala.

buy sans-serif; font-size: small;”>The current Assembly, whose life span is due to expire on June 4 this year, is expected to discuss various bills at their sitting in Kampala. The Assembly began its deliberations on January 2 and is expected to end February 3 under the stewardship of the Speaker Hon. Abdirahin Abdi.

The President said the revival of the EAC in 1993 was done by him, former Tanzanian and Kenyan Presidents, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Daniel arap Moi respectively, in order to re-establish the ancient trade in the region that existed before the colonial days.

He noted that the trade would not be complete without some countries in the region, such as newly independent South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He expressed satisfaction that in the last 16 years, trade in the 1.8 million square kilometer region has grown tremendously covering a population of over 134 million people.

President Museveni further emphasized the need to implement the political integration process adding that it was a safer roof for stronger federation that would eliminate disequilibrium socially and economically.

The Assembly was attended by, among others, the Speaker of the 9th Ugandan Parliament, Rt. Hon Rebecca Kadaga, the 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Affairs Eriya Kategaya and EALA officials.

Visiting Kenya President and Current chairman of the EAC will address the Assembly today.

sale sans-serif; font-size: small;”>The internationally-reputed body accused President Yoweri Museveni of violating media rights especially after the 2011 Presidential elections.

check sans-serif; font-size: small;”>“Led by President Yoweri Museveni, more about Uganda (139th) launched an unprecedented crackdown on opposition movements and independent media after the elections in February.”

Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive, the report released today reads in part.

The report comes on the heels of complaints made by journalists that they are being targeted by police especially while covering opposition demonstrations.

Efforts to contact Information Minister Karooro Okurut were still futile as she could not pick phone calls.

“The 2011 Arab Spring did not spill over into Sub-Saharan Africa to the point of bringing down any governments, but some regimes had to face forceful political and social demands, and journalists covering demonstrations were often the victims of indiscriminate police repression or were targeted by police who did not want them covering the crackdown,” the report adds.

“This was the case in Angola where many journalists were arrested during protests in September, and in Uganda (139) which fell 43 places in the index after a year that will not be forgotten by its media.”

They were the targets of violence and surveillance during the presidential election in February and were targeted again during the brutal crackdown on the “Walk to Work” protests later in the year, when dozens of journalists were arrested, the report, which donors considers before granting aid, reads.

The development underlines the need to respect journalists’ rights in Uganda.

In a related development, Reporters Without Borders regards the situation in Rwanda (156 position) and Equatorial Guinea (161) as very grave because of the control that their governments exercise over the media and freedom of expression in general.

President Paul Kagame told media in Kampala last month that he has no respect for Reporters Without Borders. He labeled the organisation “Liars Without Borders.”

Rwanda and Guinea have been joined by Djibouti (159th) which fell 49 places.

President Ismael Omar Guelleh was returned to office at the start of 2011 in an election that was decided in advance and gave the opposition no possibility of expressing itself in the media.

There is no free press, six people who provide an exile radio station with information were jailed for four months, and social networks are closely monitored to ensure that there are no protests, the report notes.

The three worst sub-Saharan rankings are all to be found in East Africa. Year after year, journalists continue to be exposed to the chaos and anarchy in Somalia (164th), a country embroiled in civil war and without a stable government since 1991. Four journalists were killed in Mogadishu in 2011.

The bad ranking assigned to Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan (170th) was due to prior censorship, closures of newspapers, and arrests, prolonged detention and mistreatment of journalists.

Eritrea (179th) came last in the index for the fifth year running. Freedom of opinion, like all the other freedoms, does not exist under the totalitarian dictatorship that President Issaias Afeworki has imposed on this Horn of Africa country.

At least 30 journalists are currently detained in appalling conditions. Some have been held for more than 10 years. At the other end of the index, several African countries made significant progress or showed that respect for freedom of information has taken a firm hold in their societies

Good countries group gets bigger

The number of African countries that are in the top 50 of the index has risen from seven last year to nine this year, while the number that are in top 100 has risen from 24 to 27. The highest non-European country in the index is an African one and in fact it is in the top 10. It is Cape Verde (9th), a healthy democracy and model of good governance, where governments can be changed through the ballot box, as last summer’s presidential election again showed.

Journalists there are completely free and all the political parties have access to the state media.

“Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much.”

The report further adds: “Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.”

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