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After clamping down on FM radio stations, the government has now turned its guns on newspapers with a grand plot that will suffocate journalists. The Press and Journalist (Amendment) Bill, 2010, now understood to be before Cabinet, will require newspapers to be annually licensed.  
Alarmed by the draconian character of the bill, a network of media houses and non-governmental organisations has strongly rejected the proposed amendments, calling them excessive, authoritarian and contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.

The network, Article 29 Coalition (A29C), said in a statement that it was ironical that while it was still pushing for reforms in regulation of the electronic media, the government has extended the same draconian control measures to the print media.

Article 29 of the Uganda Constitution, after which the network is named, says in section 1(a) that: "Every person has a right to freedom of expression and this includes freedom of the press and other media."  

MACHIAVELLIAN


The bill, however, does not seem to have any respect for that constitutional provision. According to A29C, the proposed amendments seek to impose a Machiavellian type of control over the media.

While previously newspapers were required to register with the General Post Office, they will now have to be registered by and seek annual licences from the Media Council, whose chairman will now be appointed by the relevant minister.

Before being licensed, newspapers must prove that they have sound technical facilities. The council will also have powers to cancel a newspaper license for various reasons, including publishing material that is deemed to endanger national security, unity, stability or foreign relations.

A29C says these provisions are clear landmines that could be used by the government to hit critical publications.
"To require the licensing of newspapers means the government through the Media Council would now have the power to revoke or refuse to renew the licence at will, which is the situation with broadcasting. This is very dangerous," the A29C statement said.

NO SURPRISES

Dr. George Lugalambi, the chairperson of Article 29 Members' Assembly, said he was not surprised by the government's latest move against media freedoms.

"What has surprised us is the gravity of the proposals in the bill," Lugalambi said at the weekend, adding that the provisions were informed by government's desire to control the media.

This exclusionary control mindset also explains new requirements for publishers to have sound equipment. He noted that some of the publications that exposed human rights abuses during previous regimes, such as Munnansi, were produced with rudimentary technology.

"Broadly speaking, they are trying to narrow the scope of public expression and debate; it serves their interest if there are fewer outlets," he said.

Information Minister, Kabakumba Masiko, could not be reached for comment as she did not answer her phone at the weekend. Her ICT colleague, Aggrey Awori, who was involved in preparing the controversial bill, could also not reached by telephone.

Comments

 
0 #1 Jim Kamezza 2010-03-14 19:27
we got some media surprises just before elections , CBS international and others will be soon on air in almost every corner of Uganda and beyond in 4 major languages , Standby for Test of technology beyond dictatorships will be followed by TV with ground breaking information , Uganda will change soon
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0 #2 Mugisha Abdul 2010-03-14 20:48
I remember when we used to pass classrooms of our fellow students in examination time where a writting on the wall could read that stop noise, exams in progress or nowdays where filling of potholes or their digging in the city is earlier on indicated by a go slow men at work.

Now Mr. editor, iam afraid that all these bogous laws are ment to close some paers which are as a result of the clossure of CBS,papers WHERE people like Nambooze,Kalund i SSerumaga,Ssemu ju Nganda and all who fear nothing when it comes to the mentioning of the truth or all who were one time in conflict with Government,are working.

This i expected it long time ago, when i saw many Buganda newspapers comming on streets with the 'BAD' boys and Girls as the main writters and i said, that now Government is to look for an opportunity to close them dowm and it has not lasted a month when its in the making.

I one time asked for Ggwanga news paper from a news vendor or hawker on Kampala road and he said that they were refused to sell those papers!!!I asked why and the guy said that he did not know and when i said by who he was saying it was directive from POLICE and other government operatives.

I went to Entebbe road and still it was the same story until i got it at supermarket.Listen, all these are sighn of a failling state and its intended to Baganda.

However, i assure all Ugandans that its instead what will make Baganda be United and also what will be an added point to the reasons why no Westerner in the nearby and later future, will ever be with a Muganda again.

it seem no lesson has been learnt from how Obote denied his region, leadership, popularity, peace etc by what he did to Buganda.For Buganda can just allow or grant other regions just, the way through it, without even attacking Western Uganda, but just to allow other pass there to claim their own property etc and you will see how great the other regions will reposses what belongs to them in all kinds.

I pray that NRM ses its mistakes it has done to Buganda and make peace early enough before others come to our beloved west which has really lost favour in these other regions.So papers like Ggwanga,Doboozi , the Observer, Monitor, i swear you are the targets.
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0 #3 Mzee Paul 2010-03-14 21:28
Its going to be a sad moment for a paper like the observer that write a lot of unmatched sense.
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0 #4 kabayekka 2010-03-15 02:36
That is the best they seem to be talking about in their NRM revolutionary cabinet meetings. What a cowardice way of trying to stay in power?

This dictator came telling the State of Buganda never to throw about stones. It is a funny state of a Kingdom that looks like an old lady holding a baby. The President said.

If you hold a baby do not throw stones. NRM will throw many more stones that will end up stoning that baby to death. Is this African village media talk rules or United Nation media rules of freedom of expression one wishes to ask?
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0 #5 MABO 2010-03-15 06:30
The govt wave to patronise or control the media may not be called for in this era of globalisation & I.T.

For me as person my opinion is tht neither the media or govt have gone thru healthy milestones in terms of building capacity or maturity regards ugandan society both poilitcally or socially. The truth is tht they both use ego & posturing whn it comes to issues of uganda.

Suppose we ask a hypothetical question that; who actually speaks for the ugandan? My answer is tht they all do but at times both are likely to go to the extreme by omission or comission.

There is no doubt tht a media hose can abuse its mandate/platform leading to political or economical up heavals there are many examples abt this;;let no body sell you a blunt lie tht there is an "independent media house" even in the so-called respected democracies.E.g wht is percieved as independent media in arab world world & west or Isreal is different.

Can you ever reconcile these two in the near frufure? Wht they do is to weigh wht to say based on local & regional dynamics. Just recall how nearly all west media reported abt Saddam & Iraq having nuclear weapons to "drum/justfiy" on Iraq or Afghanstan'did this portray independence of the media(BBC,CNN etc)?

Every media house local or foreign has its own partiality tailored by the editorial policy this an open rumour wch we hide away from to satisfy our egos & ambitions.

The only way foward is for the media & govt to minimise mistrust amongst them or create an independent body agreable to both to regulate electronic,ICT, print media etc in uganda. Pointing fingers & chest thumbing will take us no where. For God & my country.
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0 #6 Raymond Otika 2010-03-16 07:16
The plot by government to "kill critical press" is a wishful thinking, a waste time and resources. The solution to critical media is "doing the right thing"; as mandated by the constitution or the law of the land.

Like for example, it would be sheer madness for any media house to report about the devil, if the government acted like an angel.

It will also be madness if any media house report niceties about a cruel, thieving government, which is mandated by the people to protect and spend taxpayers money on providing honest essential services.

Muzzling the media is a confession of state criminality. It positively relates with criminal regimes. The defunct Soviet Union and Eastern European states perfected it but failed therafter.

China, North Korea, Cuba and Zimbabwe are still hellbent in it. In other words no criminal wants exposure.

By now many readers and subscribers might have already noticed that critic people have gone underground. Even if today the government closed all the media houses, Ugandans and the world will still get all the information about bad governance and leadership in this country.

Radio Katwe might have gone off Net. But that has not stopped people from accessing dark information coming from the State Houses in Entebbe and Nakasero.

So long as people have heads on their shoulders; the government can't win. People are already resorting to fake names to write on critical issues.
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