The leader of opposition in parliament, Hon. Betty Aol Achan has supported a list of protective media guidelines for journalists who specifically cover volatile situations such as demonstrations and protests.
Achan says these will address the issue of violation of the rights of journalists, which is commonplace in most protests.
The LOP on Thursday met a delegation from the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), who presented to her a set of proposed guidelines for media practitioners covering demonstrations and protests.
During the meeting at her office, Achan decried lack of protective legal mechanisms to ensure safety of journalists while in the course of executing their work, saying agreeable guidelines were needed.
“The guidelines are necessary. The first people who should contribute to this debate should be the media people; then you can task the army for their input and police,” she said.
The LOP added, that security agencies too need to employ people with a journalistic background to help enhance their relationship with the media.
Achan, who also doubles as the Gulu municipality MP advised that to avoid any alterations with security agencies, media practitioners must uphold top notch independence and impartiality while reporting.
“Every media house should treat candidates equally when it comes to elections. They might not be equal but you need to treat them equitably. You should be very independent and transparent”, she advised.
This she says can only happen in an environment where journalists are well enumerated and as such not likely to fall prey to financial favors.
Key among the proposed guidelines developed by CEPIL, Uganda Journalist’s Union (UJU) and East Africa Media Institute Uganda Chapter (EAMI), journalists who cover demonstrations are supposed to obey police instructions once told to do so.
Also, they must withdraw to a safe area if faced with direct aggression, if weapons appear or crowd dispersal techniques are used.
Guideline 10 stipulates that, “Journalists should take note of the names of aggressors and report them to the authorities if assaulted or abused in anyway”.
Commenting about the guidelines, Ms. Annet Namugosa the CEPIL legal officer says by drafting these guidelines they are simply trying to promote and protect journalists’ rights and not suffocating them as some might argue.
Asked why the urgency to formulate guidelines yet journalists have adequate laws governing their conduct, she said this move was to preempt maneuvers by security agencies to issue their own guidelines which would have been coarse.
“We decided instead of security issuing these guidelines let us come on board and see a way how we can partner with them to develop guidelines that will not be detrimental to media rights”, she explains.
These guidelines were formulated in the wake of last year’s Arua by election chaos in which journalists were brutalized.d.
According to a 2018 Reporters Without Borders publication titled “World Press Freedom Index”, Uganda is ranked 77th out of 180 countries globally, in terms of degree of journalistic freedom.