Faded Hope

By on May 6, 2016

On Feb 13th this year Ugandans witnessed a historic moment as all presidential candidates stood on the same stage to take part in a televised debate that was meant to offer an insight into the plans that each of the candidates had for the country. There was a sense of hope and confidence in the fact that the future of Uganda was heading the right direction.

In that moment, many Ugandans, despite their political differences, were able to briefly keep quiet and let opposing presidential candidates speak their minds.

On the same night, the deep words by Justice Ogoola rang a bell of optimism and spread around a profound sense of positivity for all Ugandans so much that an air of togetherness and unity swept over the nation – for a short while.

Several weeks and an election later, it seems like everything that was said at the debate was just but a smoke screen. It seems like there was never really any commitment from any of the candidates regarding putting country over self.


May 3rd was World Press Freedom Day and for years Uganda has been seen as one of the less exemplary countries in terms of Press Freedom. As a matter of fact, a few people in the international community have put the tag of ‘unfriendly to journalists’ on our beautiful country. And this not just because journalists in this country have been engaged in running battles with the state but because the journalists have for a long time struggled to say pretty much anything. As long as something does not rub the state the right way, there is a huge chance that it shall be somewhat held off.

Just yesterday the Government took off the gloves and decide to go all out. The Governement banned media coverage of the FDC defiance campaign. Information Minister Jim Muhwezi told reporters that it was a last warning going out to media houses that were covering the FDC defiance campaign and opposition protests. The government says media house stand the risk of losing their licences if they covered the protests. According to the head of Ugandan Communication Commission, those who cover the event on social media would also be punished.

If this is not a complete turn of events following from the tolerance we were promised during the Presidential debate then I don’t know what is.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

For the Government to go ahead and but a pan on this freedom of expression, one can only conclude that perhaps we are living in a regime that is far from democratic. Of course naturally, we did not expect too much democracy but surely the least we could do is allow people to express themselves freely.

Proponents of the state decision to ban the coverage of the defiance campaign and other opposition protests argue that it is for the safety of the rest of the nation. It is clear that the FDC protests have in the past ended in a bit of standoff with the Gov’t which does not necessarily make the Gov’t look good. However, this bogus argument seems to hinge its purpose on the assumption that everyone MUST be in agreement with the state at all times, which is a very naïve and parochial way of thinking.

At any one time, there will be people against the Government, no matter how democratic it may be. For the state to go ahead and silence the voices that air out opinions against it, this is a clear indication that tolerance is not part of the game plan.

And so even before the embers of the Press Freedom Day burn out we are already mourning our freedom of expression in Uganda.

Journalists and the Press should feed the community with information and news so that the people can be in the know of what is happening in their society. Banning their coverage of anything goes against all the values that journalists advance in their craft.


The chairman of The Elders Forum Uganda, Justice James Ogoola (L) addresses Journalists during a press conference by the Inter Religious Council at Imperial Royale Hotel on Wednesday. Next to him is the Council’s Secretary General, Joshua Kitakule, debate moderators, Nancy Kacungira and Alan Kassujja in that order. PHOTO BY ERIC DOMINIC BUKENYA

It is already bad as it is that journalists are not necessarily paid well; now they have to contend with a ban which for all intents and purposes is intended at making the life of anyone who is against the Government hard. Hope seems to be dying; slowly but surely.

Whether one is a journalist, a musician, a blogger, a painter, a politician, a doctor or a teacher, one should be given the freedom to express themselves because this freedom gives them a sense of liberty and belonging to the nation.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ― Nelson Mandela

a.k.a Beewol
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