17 March 2010

Uganda: Professional journalist bodies condemn Press Bill

Kampala — Groups of professional journalists around Africa have criticised Uganda's draft press law, saying it would make it even harder to practice independent journalism.

The proposed changes have also been criticised by the local journalism fraternity, which has questioned the motive behind it and predicted that, if passed, the law would make it hard for journalists to operate freely.

The 2010 Press and Journalist (Amendment) Bill, proposed by the Ministry of Information and National Guidance, is currently being discussed by Cabinet.

Unsound legislation

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and the African chapter of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the draft legislation as "unsound" and intended to muzzle the free press.

"According to Uganda Journalists Union, an affiliate of FAJ and IFJ, the proposed Bill has several draconian, autocratic and vaguely-worded articles and clauses which will severely restrict freedom of the media and the right of journalists to provide impartial, independent and credible information to Ugandans ahead of elections," the statement said.

The Eastern Africa Journalists Association also said the proposed amendments were "unconstitutional and draconian".

According to the draft legislation, newspapers would be required to renew their licenses annually and would also be barred from publishing material that is considered detrimental to national security, stability and unity.

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