By Dan Ayebare
The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has urged the government, its agencies and the COVID 19 response national task force to ensure the protection and facilitation of the media to do its work with no disruption.
This comes after a report from Human Rights Network of Journalists indicated that, at least seven journalists, a majority from up-country, have been victims of assault and arrest, with some having their equipment damaged and others forced to delete video and photo content from their cameras.
In a statement released by the non-profit media organisation on Monday 6th April, ACME re-emphasised media’s role in a time like this, where the COVID 19 pandemic has reduced the entire country into a lockdown.
“The role of the media at a time like this-to provide information, offer a platform for public debate and monitor government response and thus hold power to account, cannot be overstated. This is coupled with the public’s right to know and access information as they can, in order to make informed decisions about their safety and survival,” the statement partly reads.
ACME, in the same vein, also called upon media owners to ensure that their journalists report accurately and stay safe from COVID 19 and those harassing them. It also urges the journalists themselves to take the centre stage in putting their safety first before serving the public.
The statement also urges the media players and the public to also act responsibly while sharing news and using social media.
“Combating this pandemic will require our concerted effort. ACME supports minister Nabakooba’s call to the media to act responsibly and professionally by not disseminating fake news and providing platforms for misleading public debate on the virus. Similarly, the general public should desist from misusing social media to peddle misleading information about the pandemic” ACME executive director Peter G Mwesige said.
ICT and National guidance minister Judith Nabakooba recently advised journalists to register with their respective Resident District commissioners (RDCs) for purposes of clear identification.
Article 29(1a) of the Constitution of Uganda provides that everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of press and other media. Article 41(1) says everyone shall have the right to access information in the possession of the State. Article 20 guarantees that the freedom of expression and of access to information are inherent and not granted by the State.