Editors announce boycott of gov't press briefings over Museveni directive on advertising

The Uganda Editors’ Guild (UEG) has announced a boycott of government press briefings in protest against its "unconstitutional" directive on advertising.

The directive, issued by President Museveni on March 6, 2023, and reinforced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Ramathan Ggoobi on July 10, 2023, mandates that all government advertising be channeled solely through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and Print media through the New Vision.

The UEG argues that this directive results in an unfair and discriminatory practice that is detrimental to media freedom and the equitable distribution of public funds.

"As advocates for freedom of the press and the rights of all Ugandans to access diverse and unbiased information, the UEG acknowledges and appreciates the planned meeting between the Executives of the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the President scheduled for August 10, 2023," UEG said in a statement dated July 24.

The UEG plans to attend the meeting and hopes that the avenue will be used to resolve the discrimination and unconstitutionality of the directive.

They argue that the directive to exclusively utilise UBC and New Vision for government advertising infringes upon Article 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, which strictly abhors discrimination based on social, religious, and economic standing, among other criteria.

Such a move, according to UEG, is in violation of the liberalised economy trajectory adopted by Uganda in the 1990s, where public agencies are expected to compete fairly with the private sector for revenue and government business.

UEG also hopes that the meeting with the president will address the issues of monopoly and fair competition.

The government-owned status of both UBC and New Vision raises concerns about fair competition within the media industry.

By monopolising government advertising through these channels, independent media houses are unjustly denied the opportunity to compete for government advertising revenue, stifling their growth and hindering their ability to employ journalists and other professionals.

Another issue they want to be addressed is the rights of journalists and media professionals.

Article 40(2) of the Constitution of Uganda grants every individual the right to practice their profession and carry on lawful occupations, trade, and business.

By monopolising government advertising through UBC and New Vision, other media organisations are denied fair opportunities to participate in the competitive market, leading to significant financial repercussions.

This directive, according to UEG severely jeopardises the livelihoods of journalists and media professionals across the country.

UEG also wants the issue of transparency and accountability addressed.

They argue that the allocation and usage of public funds, including tax revenues, should be conducted with utmost transparency and accountability.

The directive, the Editors Guild said, deprives Ugandan citizens of their right to know how tax revenues are being used, distributed, and allocated by the government.

UEG appealed to the government to abandon the directive and seek alternative solutions that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of government advertising funds.

"The UEG demands continued engagement between stakeholders in the media industry and the government to address these pressing issues and find a constructive way forward," the statements further read.

The Uganda Editors’ Guild said it remains committed to upholding media freedom, defending the rights of journalists, and safeguarding the interests of all Ugandans.

"We stand firm in our pursuit of a diverse and vibrant media landscape that empowers citizens with accurate and unbiased information," it further noted in a statement.

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