Uganda’s international media ranking drops by seven places

Eastern, Southern Africa tasked to respect media freedom
Press freedom has declined in Eastern and Southern Africa. COURTESY PHOTO (© AP Images)

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | According to the 2022 press index report released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Uganda has experienced a significant decline in its international media ranking. The country now stands at 132 out of 180 countries, marking a notable drop from its previous position in the 2021 rankings.

Robert Ssempala, the Executive Director of Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), addressed journalists and underscored the negative attention Uganda is receiving on the global stage due to a surge in press freedom violations within its borders.

While the number of reported cases against journalists in 2022 decreased from 170 to 94, Ssempala stressed that international observers are focusing on the severity of these violations and the authorities’ capacity to ensure justice for journalists.

HRNJ’s documentation revealed that during the first half of the year, there were 43 cases of journalist rights violations, and this number may further increase by the end of the year.

Press freedom in Uganda: Thumbs up for NRM or bold journalists?
Despite the increased level of media freedom in Uganda over the last decade, journalists are still being targeted by national security laws. Courtesy Photo.

Diana Nandudu, HRNJ’s program officer for legal aid, urged journalists to seek legal redress by turning to the courts if they have experienced physical assaults. Emphasizing the importance of settling such cases in a court of law, Nandudu stated that this approach would lead to fair resolutions.

Recently, a notable incident occurred when journalists covering a press conference by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party chairman Wasswa Biriggwa were attacked by individuals from the party’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi, Kampala. The journalists suffered severe injuries, had their equipment destroyed, and some of their belongings were stolen.

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HRNJ documented a series of concerning incidents from January 2023 until July, which included 16 assault cases against journalists, 9 incidents of confiscated gadgets, 10 arrests of journalists, 6 cases of malicious property damage, and 2 threats of violence perpetrated by police, the army, and community members.

The drop in Uganda’s international media ranking serves as a wake-up call for the authorities to address press freedom concerns and ensure the safety and protection of journalists operating in the country.

By taking proactive measures to safeguard journalists’ rights and hold perpetrators accountable, Uganda can strive to improve its standing in the global media landscape and promote a more open and free press environment.