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Closing Space For Civil Society And The Media In Uganda Forging A Collaborative Response (A High Level Dialogue Convened By CEPIL)

On Wednesday 24th July, we organised a high-level dialogue on “Closing Space for civil society and the media in Uganda; forging a collaborative response.” This was after we noticed the trend of closing civic space in the three East African Countries characterised by increasing impunity.

This has been evidenced by repressive tactics perpetrated by state and non-state actors; for example, enactment of restrictive laws and policies, disregard for rule of law, use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protests and demonstrations, among others.

Uganda ranked number 125, Tanzania 112 and Kenya 100, out of 180 countries according to the World Press Freedom Index of 2019. This low rank of the three East African countries caused us to organise this dialogue.

The dialogue aimed to identify challenges leading to the narrowing of Media Freedom and civil society space and suggest solutions and recommendations.

We had a keynote address from Mukose Arnold Anthony who represented Uganda Journalists Association and stressed that due to continued harassment, intimidation, illegal arrests, detention, poor pay of journalists, the public has been denied a right to information. “We should all stand and advocate for the freedom of expression because it is the bedrock of all other rights. We should all be seen as Human rights defenders.” He said.

Uganda Journalists Association recommended that we take joint actions to build mutual understanding and ongoing dialogue between media and CSO especially as we head in a tense political environment, strengthen protective mechanism including litigation and legal aid.

We also had a panel discussion with Ophelia Kemigisha, Haruna Kanabi, Lucy Ekadu, and Ibrahim Bbossa who represented Uganda Communications Commission. The panel discussed the role of civil society and media in a democratic society. The panel then received questions from the participants and opinions too.

It was agreed that we need to separate personal opinions from news opinions should not be mistaken or attached to the profession of the journalists.

Mr. Kinobe, the president of Uganda Law society noted that freedom of expression is not absolute and so it should be exercised responsibly and thus there is a need to regulate it.