Private media boycott govt briefings over Museveni ban on adverts

Private media boycott govt briefings over Museveni ban on adverts
The media have announced a boycott of government events

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda Editors’ Guild (UEG) is up in arms against a recent directive issued by President Yoweri Museveni, mandating all government advertising to be exclusively channeled through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and print media via the New Vision (NV).

This move, which has been reinforced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, has sparked outrage among media professionals and raised serious concerns about media freedom and equitable distribution of public funds.

In a press statement issued on July 24, 2023 the UEG, as fierce advocates for freedom of the press and the rights of Ugandans to access unbiased information, is calling for urgent action. They have welcomed the planned meeting between the executives of the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the President, scheduled for August 10. The UEG plans to participate in the meeting, hoping for a resolution to address their concerns.

One of the major concerns highlighted by the UEG is the discriminatory nature of the directive. The exclusive utilization of UBC and NV for government advertising is deemed unconstitutional, infringing upon Article 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, which strictly prohibits discrimination based on various criteria.

Additionally, this move contradicts the liberalized economy trajectory adopted in the 1990s, where public agencies are expected to compete fairly with the private sector for government business and revenue.

The UEG has also expressed worries over the monopoly and lack of fair competition within the media industry. As both UBC and NV are government-owned entities, this directive unjustly denies independent media houses the opportunity to compete for government advertising revenue. This creates hurdles for growth and undermines the employment of journalists and other media professionals.

Furthermore, the directive compromises the rights of journalists and media professionals. By monopolizing government advertising through UBC and NV, other media organizations are denied fair opportunities to participate in the competitive market, potentially leading to financial difficulties and job losses.

Transparency and accountability are also at stake, as the directive limits the public’s right to know how tax revenues are being allocated and used. The allocation and usage of public funds, including tax revenues, should be conducted transparently and with accountability.

In response to these concerns, the UEG has announced several actions. Firstly, they will boycott government press briefings until a resolution is reached, aiming to protest against the unconstitutional directive on government advertising.

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Additionally, they are appealing to the government to abandon the directive and explore alternative solutions that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of government advertising funds.

Lastly, the UEG demands continued engagement between media industry stakeholders and the government to address these pressing issues and find a constructive way forward.

The Uganda Editors’ Guild remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding media freedom, defending the rights of journalists, and safeguarding the interests of all Ugandans. They will continue to strive for a diverse and vibrant media landscape that empowers citizens with accurate and unbiased information.