More Ugandans Support Press Freedom-Survey

57 percent of the respondents in Uganda were against the idea of letting the government restrict the free press, especially on issues it considers harmful.
Journalist James Akena being beaten by the UPDF
Majority of citizens in the country support media freedom. This is contained in a report by Twaweza Uganda’s Sauti za Wananchi.

The brief titled Press freedom in East Africa; citizens’ perspective shows that 57 percent of the respondents in Uganda were against the idea of letting the government restrict the free press, especially on issues it considers harmful.     

“57 percent (of citizens) say the media should be able to publish views and ideas without government control, preferring this statement over the alternative, that the government should have the right to control what the media can publish,” the data brief reads in part.

Equally, 61 percent of citizens also believe that freedom of speech is a human right and so anybody should be allowed to become a journalist while 39 say that journalism should be licensed with the government deciding who can be a journalist.     

The survey data further indicates that more than 79 percent of Ugandans strongly believe that only a free press can report on government mistakes and corruption while 20 percent think too much reporting on government mistakes and corruption harms the country.   

Relatively similar insights on press freedom were shared by citizens in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania with more respondents in the two countries also asserting that independent media, freedom of expression, and access to information are all vital to democracy.  

The growing citizen’s support for freedom of the press is also consistent withthe rising public trust in media. According to the data, during the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, 83 percent of citizens trusted information obtained from traditional media outlets like radios, TV, and newspapers more than any other source.    

However, although citizens support a free press, they are also concerned about the effects of social media on fake news and intolerance. To this effect, about 55 percent of Ugandan respondents think unrestricted access to the internet and social media should be protected.     

The views from the citizens come at a time when many reports have been pointing to the fact that media space in Uganda has been narrowing with restrictions and violations limiting media houses and individual journalists from conducting their work.    

A recently released 2021 Human Rights Network for Journalist-HRNJ report, for instance, cites that although the nature of violations and restrictions on media houses and journalists had drastically decreased from those committed in the previous years, Uganda is still ranked among countries where media freedoms and rights are stifled.    

The report highlights that now and then journalists have been stopped from accessing news and sometimes media houses have been completely closed. For such, among other reasons, Uganda’s global record on freedom of expression, access to information, and the general media environment has dropped from 117th in 2018 to remain static at 125th in these past three years.

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