During our Global Integrity Dialogue event in Kampala this past May, we met a number of local Ugandan journalists from the leading papers. As part of an ongoing conversation about the prospects and challenges for governance reform in Uganda, we asked our colleague Charles Muzale to describe the challenges facing journalists in Uganda.
Among the challenges we must cope with, these are the most difficult:
NEWS SOURCES FEAR DIVULGING INFORMATION
News sources in Uganda fear revealing information to the media, especially on the investigative side because of concern that they will lose their jobs.
EDITORS FAIL TO APPRECIATE THE JOURNALIST’S STRUGGLE
Ugandan news editors sometimes fail to respect our work. They edit our drafts into their own words, resulting in conflict with our sources.
LACK OF PROTECTION
In our country, media practitioners do their work at their own risk because police can arrest us, beat us and confiscate our equipment.
DENIAL OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Despite the passing of a recent law regarding access to information, restrictions still exist, especially in public offices.
TREATMENT BY THE PUBLIC AS ENEMIES
Journalists struggle to get stories because communities are hesitant to associate with them.
Poor capacity – both financial and otherwise – is a great challenge because most media are in the private sector without direct government support. The government fails to protect media practitioners in the private sector. Journalists feel that the government does not care about human rights of journalists.
Working for private media is particularly difficult. We have about 100 FM radio stations in our country that are owned by private investors. These private investors do not know how the media works. However much money we request for increased resources to follow important issues, they consider it to be a waste of money. As a result, in the long run, we fail to perform well. Private investors just want to have radio, without encouraging workers’ creativity. The owners of these radio stations do not pay most of their workers — most of them work as volunteers.
So what can we do? The Parliament is working to ensure that everyone’s constitutional right to access to information is protected. It has passed a new law regarding access to information that may actually help media practitioners. Meanwhile, the media are trying to inform the masses about the role of journalism in Uganda in order to improve our situation.
— Charles Muzale