Uganda drops again in press freedom

By John Semakula

Government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo said the findings may carry some water if they were conducted around last year during the different by-elections including in Arua Municipality.

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Uganda has dropped on the global press freedom index from the 117th position in 2018 to 125th in 2019.

According to the latest ranking, the country lags behind her neighbours Kenya and  Tanzania, which occupy the 100th and 118th positions, respectively.

Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation that conducts political advocacy on issues relating to press freedom released the ranking on Thursday.


Uganda’s drop on the press freedom index has been blamed on acts of intimidation and violence against reporters, which the report says occur on a daily basis.

The report accuses the security services of leading the violation of press freedom by often targeting journalists through arbitrary arrests and sometimes holding them incommunicado. 

“Any criticism of the authorities can result in journalists being beaten, abducted or deprived of their equipment with impunity,” the report said.

The shutdown of the internet during the 2016 general elections and introduction of a daily tax on social media users this financial year was blamed for undermining journalists and media outlets.

Government responds

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said the findings may carry some water if they were conducted around last year during the different by-elections, including in Arua Municipality.

But he argued that the practice of harassing journalists is not institutional.  “For example, President Yoweri Museveni has never issued any directive to Police officers to beat up journalists.”

“We have not had any incident this year where journalists have been beaten. Last year, we had dinner between the media and security forces and we made the commitment to respect each other.” 

Opondo said even in incidents where journalists were battered and injured, there were corrective measures undertaken by the government to treat victims and replace equipment that was destroyed.   

General performance

The overall best-performing country was Norway, which retained the first position in the row, followed by Finland and Sweden.

There was, however, no African country that was ranked among the top 10 of the 180 countries considered in the study.

The best African countries were Namibia in the 23rd position, Ghana and South Africa followed in the 27th and 31st positions, respectively.

The three African countries ranked better than the US and Britain in the 48th and 33rd positions.

It’s surprising though that any African country could perform better than Britain and the US.

The stance of the US President, Donald Trump against the media could explain the performance. Trump has always accused the media of spreading fake news.

The three worst performing countries were: Turkmenistan 80th, North Korea 179th and Eritrea 178th.   

The 2019 World Press Freedom Index categorised the media climate in more than three-fourths of the 180 countries and territories studied as “problematic,” “difficult” or “very serious”. Just 8% of the media climate considered “good.”