The special day celebrates the spirit of Journalism and recognizes the dedication of journalists
Hailed as the fourth pillar of democracy, journalists have time and again risked their lives and reputation to reveal the truth behind an incident, event or scandal.
In a bid to appreciate their hard work, every year, May 3rd is observed as World Press Freedom Day. The special day celebrates the spirit of journalism and recognises the dedication of journalists. It is extremely significant as the United Nations considers it an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of the press freedom across the globe, defend the attacks on media independence and pay tribute to journalists who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
Every year a specific theme is chosen for World Press Day and this year’s theme is “Journalism under digital siege”. The theme not only highlights the ways that endanger journalism but also the consequences of all this public trust over digital communications. Mostly it focuses on the risks faced by journalists by surveillance and digitally-mediated attacks. The origin of World Press Day dates back to 1991, when an African journalist present at a UNESCO conference in Windhoek, which was based on ‘Promoting an independent Pluralistic African Media’, opened up about an idea to encourage press freedom in different parts of the world.
UNESCO adopted the Windhoek declaration on May 3rd, 1991, which aimed toward the development of a free, independent, and pluralistic press. The day also highlights the importance of freedom of journalists in a few countries like China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Eritrea, Djibouti, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Cuba that have severely limited press freedom. Last year’s theme was “Information as a public good”, which focused on the importance of cherishing the information as a public good and exploring the ways to strengthen the fourth pillar of democracy.
KEY MESSAGE BY UNESCO
The theme of 2022 World Press Freedom Day, “Journalism under Digital Siege”, underlines the many new digital threats journalists are faced with, and demands responses from all concerned stakeholders.
Social media platforms should increase transparency about any actions to stop the spread of disinformation and promote trustworthy information instead.
Human rights-based governance is needed to ensure that internet companies do more to tackle disinformation, online hate speech, and potentially harmful content. This must be consistent with international standards on freedom of expression, access to information, and the safety of journalists.
Privacy standards must be strengthened in regard to threats to the right to privacy by digital technologies and practices such as data retention, artificial intelligence, spyware, and arbitrary surveillance.
Legal actions are needed to prevent and prosecute illegal surveillance of journalists, both by public and private parties, while there should be strengthened legal protection for journalists to keep their sources confidential.
Platforms and police services must take strong steps to prevent and eliminate online attacks against journalists, and orchestrated campaigns of harassment, intimidation, and violations of privacy.
Intensified measures need to be taken to protect women journalists, who are especially violently targeted online and offline, such as by increasing responsiveness to their situation and developing tools to identify and fight online violence.
Of immediate concern is the economic viability of media, as many outlets continue to bleed advertising revenues to Internet companies, resulting in news deserts and existential threats to media pluralism and independence.
The Member States, Internet intermediaries, and civil society all have a role to play to break the digital siege on journalism and find multi-stakeholder solutions to the challenges.
World Press Freedom Day 2022 is an opportunity to put into action the commitments made by all UNESCO member states as regard to the principles of the Windhoek +30 Declaration. The Windhoek +30 Declaration continues to be relevant in regard to its recognition that press freedom, independence, and pluralism are prerequisites to guarantee information as a public good that serves as a shared resource for the whole of humanity.
Now media viability, transparency of digital platforms, and citizens empowered with media and information literacy have been added to the core tasks.
KABALE– The Chairman of the Media Council of Uganda Paulo Ekochu has underscored the importance of having vibrant and professional media practitioners in order for them to meet the challenges of modern technological needs in the media industry.
Ekochu made this revelation while addressing the journalists who were attending a 2-day media engagement meeting at Kirigime Guest House in Kabale Municipality organized by the Media Council of Uganda under the theme, ” The drive for a responsible media in Uganda”.
He said that the Media Council of Uganda established by Section 8(i) of the Press and Journalists Act has the mandate to promote a free, responsible press and regulate the mass media in Uganda.
He reminded the participants that Uganda is the only country in Africa that has allowed freedom of speech to thrive but this has given loopholes for some people to go against established guidelines to promote free media practices.
The Chairman of the Media Council of Uganda Paulo Ekochu addressed the journalists
He however said that there are many challenges that have emerged with technological advancement which the media practitioners must come into terms with in order to be able to deliver accurate information to the masses.
The Secretary of Media Council of Uganda David Kyetume Kasanga told the journalists that the media practitioners need to do their work within the confines of the established laws thus calling upon the media owners and managers to ensure that they understand the legal framework of their operations in order to operate without hindrance.
Kyetume enumerated several legal framework procedures that media owners and practitioners must follow, such as registration of their media houses and acquisitions of an operational permit all of which are in accordance with the established laws.
Trainers who included JB Wasswa from Makerere University said that Uganda’s media will thrive if the practitioners practice their work professionally without reporting issues that mislead the general public.
Other trainers included Charles Odoobo Bichachi, the Public Editor of Nation Media Group who asked journalists to account for their work and what they feed the general public, while a member of the Media Council of Uganda Peter Okello Jabweri told the journalists to practice journalism based on professional training.
Others included Gerald Businge from Ultimate Media Consults who took the journalists through digital media practices and asked them to always distinguish between factual from fake news.
Richard Mugwisagye, from the Uganda Police Force, asked the media practitioners to follow established laws when practicing their work to avoid confrontation with security forces while the head of Legal Services in Uganda Communications Commission Abdul Sallawu Waiswa asked journalists to do their work within the confines of the law.
The training which attracted participants from Kisoro, Rubanda, Rukiga, Kabale, Rukungiri, and Kanungu will come to climax on Thursday afternoon after an award of certificates to over 100 journalists from both print and electronic media.
Media is a channel of communication through which we disseminate news, music, movies, education, promotions of messages and other data. It includes physical and online. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboards, telephone, internet, fax and email.
Jim Morrison once said “whoever controls the media controls the mind”. This is more than just a statement but a caution; media can easily mend a person, or corrupt a person hence media personnel have to be wary of what they feed people to build a nation. Media is growing worldwide at a fast rate where now any one can actually disseminate news through online means. Creation of social media, twitter, WhatsApp, tik-tok, Facebook has made spread of news even more versatile.
In Uganda media is involved with printing, television, radio, and online sectors and its coverage is split between both state and private outlets. In 1990s the Uganda posts and telecommunications corporation had a monopoly over Uganda’s communication sector until Uganda communication Act was enacted in 1997. The act created Uganda Communication Commission which currently regulates communication in Uganda. In 1953,there was only one radio in Uganda(Radio Uganda) and in 1963,UBC Tv was introduced .After the liberalization of the sector in 1993 a tremendous growth of radio and TV stations has been experienced in Uganda .Today Uganda is blessed with 315 radio stations,30 television stations,60 print publications and over 70 online publications.
In 1995, media council was established by the Press and Journalist Act. This was charged with regulation of mass media with the objective to ensure there is freedom of press and to establish and regulate mass media and any disputes within or related to the industry. According to article 10(1) of the press and journalist act 1995 cap 105; (1) the council has to regulate the conduct and promote good ethical standards and discipline of journalists.
With advance of technology there is need to ensure that there is regulation and no misuse of media activities, hence media council of Uganda under section 5 of the Press and Journalist Act which provides for the registration of particulars relating to an editor including other details as prescribed by the council issued a notice in August 2021 urging all editors, publishers and broadcasters to register their editors with media council.
Registration prohibits libel or injuring reputation of others by slanderous communication, it promotes privacy and prohibits violence. With registration, journalists will be able to work together regardless of what media house they belong to, leads to authenticity of media practitioners, media personnel are protected from brutality especially when they are trying to get access to information, enhance professionalism among media practitioners and it enables making training programs easy for journalist.
Media is a powerful tool especially with mending people’s minds because public trusts what they see, read and hear on media hence it’s registration will build confidence and trust with public and government. Identification of one from the rest creates respect of the news you carry and also protects one while seeking for justice.