|B ASIC D ATA|
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Uganda|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
|Language(s):||English,Ganda or Luganda,other Nigro-Congo, Nilo-Saharan,Swahili,Arabic|
|Area:||236,040 sq km|
|GDP:||6,170 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Stations:||8|
|Number of Radio Stations:||28|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||2,600,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||108.4|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||60,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||2.5|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||40,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||1.7|
Background & General Characteristics
Uganda is a landlocked East African country in the Great Lakes region in central Africa. With a population of almost 24 million, Uganda is a country with 52 languages spoken by four major people groups: the Bantu, Nilotics, Nilo-Hamitics, and those of Sudanese origin. The country covers 241,000 square Kilometers with 83 percent of the people living in rural areas.
Uganda's people have a relatively short life span— some 48 percent of the people will not live to see their 40th birthday. Half the population does not have access to clean water sources, which leads to a high occurrence of water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera. Uganda also faces a long battle with AIDS; some 8 percent of the people live with HIV. Hardly a family has gone untouched by the severity of the AIDS plague in Uganda.
Uganda is in a state of post-conflict recovery. The dictator Idi Amin is a household name in most parts of the world, although his term as national leader lasted only eight years. He was overthrown by the same person whom Amin himself toppled, Milton Obote, with the help on troops from neighboring Tanzania' People's Defence Force. Obote's second regime endured from 1979 until 1985, when the guerrilla fighter and next president, Yoweri Museveni, successfully concluded his rebellion and took power. The country has enjoyed relative stability under Museveni, and has been welcomed for the most part back into the family of nations. However, northern parts of Uganda still experience military and political insecurity from rebellion promulgated by the Lord's Resistance Army, a Sudan-based insurgency group active in the Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader districts. Nevertheless, Uganda has made gains in rebuilding important institutions such as a parliament, the police, the army, as well as the judiciary and the executive branches of government.
The newspapers and magazines of Uganda have not increased as fast as the radio sector. Moreover, many of the oldest newspapers have ceased publication, such as the Uganda Argus , Weekly TopicTaifa EmpyaSekanyolya , MusiziMunansiStarNgabo , and Citizen .
New Vision is the country's leading daily. Published by the New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation, the paper has a print run of about 40,000 copies and a readership of 300,000. The New Vision is 15 by 11 inches in size and averages 36 pages per issue, but can also reach as many as 60 pages in an issue. Approximately 70 percent of the paper is news copy, with 30 percent of the space dedicated to advertising. Created in 1986, the corporation is a government-owned company headed by European editor-in-chief, William Pike. The corporation also has several local publications. Bukedde , the Luganda-language daily, distributes 20,000 copies per day; the Luo-language paper, Orumuri , is published weekly in Runyankole; and the Ateso-language paper is called Etop . The government-owned New Vision Publishing Corporation is likely to be privatized in the first decade of the 2000s because the government had placed increasing emphasis on divesting itself of its business activities. In 2002 the New Vision Corporation employed 250 full-time staff and an additional 250 are contract workers. There are over 400 vendors, who usually offer distribution services to multiple publications, can be considered indirectly employed by New Vision .
Another giant in the newspaper industry of Uganda is the Monitor , an independent daily. It was started in 1992 by a group of editors and writers who defected from the Weekly Topic after coming into conflict with management policies. The Monitor grew from humble beginnings to become New Vision 's main rival. The Monitor 's daily print run is 25,000 with a readership of 200,000. With the same 15-by 11-inch format as New Vision , the Monitor averages 31 pages per issue, but can reach up to 50 pages. In an average issue 80 percent of space is committed to news copy, and the remaining 20 percent is sold to advertisers. In 1999 the Nation Media Group of Kenya, owner of Nairobi's leading paper Nation , bought the Monitor . This brought an influx of capital and expertise to the Monitor as the Nation has been in the news industry for a much longer time. In 2001, the Monitor opened an FM radio station. Some of the print media journalists also work at the FM station. The synergy at work in this new venture is interesting and innovative. Monitor Publications also runs a Business Directory published once a year, has a Luganda newspaper called Ngoma , with a print run of 10,000. The Monitor Publications also publishes several books by local authors, some of which are used as text books in Uganda's schools. The Monitor publications and its FM station have 300 full-time workers and 150 part-time workers.
Other papers and magazines include the Uganda Confidential that does anticorruption investigative. It has weathered several lawsuits in pursuit of its mission. Sunrise , Entatsi , and Message are among other news print choices from the vendors in Uganda. The regional weekly paper, East African , published by the Nation Media Group, circulates widely in Uganda's elite circles. At the other end of the spectrum, The Red Pepper is a tabloid weekly that focuses on sleaze stories and tends toward the pornographic. Its editors have been charged for publishing obscene pictures. The paper's editor, Richard Tusiime, has argued that the paper's stories are factual and should be published to awaken society. All newspapers are published in Kampala and circulate throughout Uganda; no print media is based in the countryside. The Monitor and New Vision have readership in Kenya and Tanzania where copies are taken daily.
Challenges for the country and the media remain. The democratic future is still fragile. The current administration in power is a movement, not a political party in the Western sense. Indeed, Uganda does not permit political parties as such, thus there is no room or call for multi-party elections and the kind of political and policy debate that peaceful opposition engenders. This has generated some uncertainty about the country's future in building democratic institutions.
In 2002, parliament enacted into law the Political Organisations Act. The passage of this legislation may help remove uncertainty about which political direction Uganda will take. Parties are not yet allowed to field candidates and hold rallies, but under the new law they can now hold their delegates conferences to elect their leaders, and they can hold seminars at the national level but not the districts. The parties are clearly not happy with the law as it does not open up the political space to the level they want, but there now exists some limited room in which to work for political organization and change. Media of all kinds have been deeply involved in this discussion. In another step toward mapping out its tenuous future, the country has planned a referendum for the mid-decade of 2000 to determine political system, movement, or multiparties will help determine the country's future. Another variable is the ongoing Constitution Review Commission that is collecting views from the population around the country. Its eventual report will also influence the future.
The quality of journalism is impressive since broadcasting was liberalized in 1994. Entertainment radio and television, vastly different from the previous state-controlled media, is still something of a novelty in the country. Critics, who come from a strong tradition of state-run media, are strongly critical of FM radio's overwhelming emphasis on music and advertising at the sacrifice of news reporting and pubic information.
Although the government controlled broadcast media until 1994, print media enjoyed relative openness as early as 1986, when several papers were launched. The quality of journalism has improved with the increased competition from the privately owned newspapers, radio, and television stations. Improved training at Makerere University and the Uganda Management Institute's School of Journalism have also served to provide higher quality journalists for the growing and changing industry.
Uganda is a developing country with a fragile, largely rural economic base. The total gross domestic product is about US$7 billion with a gross domestic product per capita annually of approximately US$1,167. During the 1990s and early 2000s the economy grew at an annual rate of about 6 percent, one of the highest rates of growth in the world. Yet the World Bank has noted: "Most people, and almost all the poorest, depend on small holder agriculture for their livelihoods. The scope for sustainable poverty reduction is therefore intimately linked to increases in market participation, agricultural productivity and non-farm employment."
The government has put the Plan for the Modernisation of Agriculture in place with the anticipation that rural farming will be provided with the improvements it needs to compete in world—or at least regional—markets. Related to this effort is the Poverty Eradication Action Plan also aimed at alleviating subsistence poverty. According the United Nations Develop Programme's 2001 Human Development Report, 44.4 percent of Uganda's population live below the national poverty line. The full economic potential of the country in sectors such as tourism, coffee, tea, cocoa, fish and cotton is yet to be realized. The country's small industrial sector has grown since the Museveni government welcomed back the skilled Indian community that had been expelled by General Amin in the 1970s. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act also opened a new door has been opened by allowing countries like Uganda to access the U.S. market with their exports. The challenge is how to add value to Uganda's cotton, coffee, and other exports so that finished products brings an influx of capital into the Ugandan economy. Furthermore, the economic growth rates would improve if all parts of the country were safe from ambush, terrorist acts, and meaningless violence.
Several statutes affect the media industry: the Constitution of 1995, the Press and Journalists Statute (1995), the Electronic Media Statute (1996), the Uganda Communications Act (1997), the Referendum and Other Provisions Act (1999), and the Penal Code Act. The constitution requires that "all organs and agencies of the State, all citizens, organisations and other bodies and persons in applying or interpreting the Constitution or any law and in taking and implementing any policy decisions for the establishment and promotion of a just, free and democratic society." The media industry is required under this law to follow the principles and objectives of the 1995 constitution. Article 29 (1) of the constitution states: "Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media." But this freedom is restricted in Article 41 (1) which states: "Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the State or any other organ or agency of the State except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to privacy of any other person." This provision of the law makes investigative journalism very difficult as numerous questions are left unanswered. Whose privacy is protected, and who decides when privacy invasion has occurred? Such lack of clarity directly impedes the fact-finding and reporting capabilities of journalists. Finally, the ominous possibility that media investigations might jeopardize the security of the state raises the bar and poses the ever-present possibility that charges of treason, not merely privacy violations, could result.
Government officials, who are usually the target of investigative reporting, find this part of the law to be a convenient and flexible tool. The situation is further complicated by the lack of a freedom of information act, which Parliament has yet to put in place. Such legislation would clarify which types of information can be accessed and which cannot under the present constitution. Indeed, the present ambiguity works in favor of political, but not democratic, interests.
The Press and Journalist Statute of 1995 created the National Institute of Journalists of Uganda to which all practicing journalists are required to belong. Its aims to establish and maintain professional standards; to foster the spirit of professional fellowship among journalists; to encourage, train, equip and enable journalists to play their part in society; and to establish and maintain mutual relationships with international journalists' organizations. The statute even prescribes the type of education full members of the institute should have. A full member is required under this statute to be a holder of a university degree in journalism or mass communication. Alternatively a person may be a full member if he or she has a university degree in any other field plus a qualification in journalism or mass communication and has practiced journalism for at least one year. The law stipulates that a practicing certificate valid for one year is required by all who work in journalism, unless the worker possesses the longer-term certificate. The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of US$170 or three months of imprisonment. Nonetheless, many journalists practice without these certifications, and the law in not normally enforced. It remains a tool of the bureaucracy, though not at this time an active one.
The Press and Journalists Statute 1995 provides for a disciplinary committee that hears complaints, allegations of professional misconduct, and other inquiries. As a reference point for responsible practice, the Statute presents in clear language a nine-point code of conduct which addresses such issues as disclosure of sources of information, accepting bribes, denying a person a legitimate claim of right to reply to a statement, separating opinion from factual news, correcting any damage done through factual error, and discouraging the dissemination of information designed to promote or having the effect of promoting tribalism, racism or any other form of discrimination.
The Press and Journalist Statute (1995) created a Media Council that is appointed by the Minister of Information. The functions of the council are to regulate the conduct and promote good ethical standards among journalists; to arbitrate disputes between the public and the state and the media; to exercise disciplinary control over journalists, editors, and publishers; to promote the flow of information; to censor films, video tapes, plays and other related media for public consumption; and to do for the press anything that may be authorized or required by any other law. However, the government has often resorted to the courts before engaging the services of the Media Council, which has gone unused. Since the law's passage, members of the public have sought due process in the courts, without turning to the Council. To be effective, the Media Council must begin asserting itself and define its role in ensuring that journalists are not harassed in freely pursuing their work.
Passed in March of 2002, the Anti-Terrorism Act is likely to complicate the life of practicing journalists. Several controversial sections of the law have drawn response from international agencies. Soon after the law was passed, Reporters Without Borders (the French media advocacy group) urged the Uganda government not to implement the new antiterrorism law until clauses which could be used against journalists for "encouraging terrorism"—a 10-year prison sentence offense—are removed.
The Uganda Journalists Safety Committee helps journalists who are harassed by the state. The committee provides financial support to hire lawyers and sometimes offers support for the family while a journalist is in jail.
Officially the Media Council has the role of censoring offensive materials, mainly pornography or racist, sectarian, or tribalistic material. The National Institute of Journalists also carries some responsibility for discipline of this material. In actual practice, however, agents of the state (usually the police) more often investigate and indict journalists before calling on either professional agency. As a result, the Media Council remains weak and ineffective.
The arrival of the Internet has complicated every effort to control media content. In most national legal systems, legislation cannot keep up with technology. This is certainly the case in Uganda. The split-court decision in 2002 in the U.S. case Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition concerning virtual child pornography would be seen in Uganda to be hair-splitting to the extreme, yet the Ugandan legal system—no more than the one in such an advanced democracy—cannot maintain pace with the creative technologies of those who would ply the public's most vulnerable sensitivities.
Despite the ambiguities of the law and process, the relation between state and press in Uganda continues to improve. Perhaps that improvement is more a comment on the abhorrent conditions under which the press operated during Amin's rule rather than a statement of current liberal practice and press freedom. During the Amin regime, the working life of a dissident journalist was often cut violently short, and from the state's point of view, due process was properly hierarchical, fast, and emphatic. Many journalists were killed, a practice not uncommon in the East African region. That executions no longer occur is improvement indeed. That journalists may now appeal their case and cause based on legislation which at least defines the state's interests (albeit overly broad and with characteristic vagueness) illustrates significant advances over the arbitrary censorship and intimidation of the recent past.
The liberalized atmosphere in which licenses to operate are relatively easy to get makes relations between the state and the press easy to manage. In power since the mid-1980s, the National Resistance Movement government has carried out far-reaching reforms in the country. The media has played a vital role in exposing corruption, in the HIV/AIDS campaign, and in the campaign against poverty. Media have been allies with government in this regard.
Yet certain tensions remain. The government has criticized the media for concentrating on sensational stories. President Yoweri Museveni is particularly angered at times by the press' natural tendency to focus on problems and difficulties in Uganda, which Museveni claims drives away international investors. At times he has called such reporting "enemy action." Nevertheless his government has an open door to the media industry. He is the only president in the region who regularly interacts with the media in lengthy press conferences. His presidential press unit, headed by press secretary Mary Karoro Okurut, holds monthly press briefings. Karoro Okurut contributes articles to both the New Vision and Monitor . Her deputy Onapito Ekomoloit also writes a column for New Vision . This is evidence of the good working relationship that the government has with the media.
The same holds true for the electronic media. It is not uncommon for a minister of government to be a guest at a talk show to explain a particular policy to the public.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Article 30 (1) and (2) of the Press and Journalist Statute states: "No person being an employee of a foreign mass media organization or working as a freelance for the mass media shall practice journalism in Uganda unless he is in possession of an accreditation card issued by the Council. The accreditation card referred to in this section shall be issued upon payment of fees and upon such terms as may be prescribed by the council."
Foreign media are active in Uganda without harassment. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Radio France International, The Financial Times of London, and others have operated in Uganda. Free to report within the country, even foreign journalists in print and electronic media coming for assignments from neighboring Kenya are required to secure accreditation from the Ugandan government. The foreign press's presence is especially apparent when regional events are taking place in Kampala. The BBC and Radio France International run local FM stations and relay their programs through the country.
Uganda is host to Reuters, Agence France Press, Associated Press, the Chinese News Agency, and one local agency, the Uganda News Agency, which is part of the Department of Information in the President's Office. All have a good working relation with the State. Most foreign news agencies employ local journalists to cover the country for them.
The Electronic Media Statute of 1996 guides the Broadcast Media. According to the most reliable source for broadcast news, this statute repeals the earlier Cinematography Act and Television Licensing Act. It amends and consolidates previous statutes relating to broadcasting in particular, the Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Act. The right to broadcast is guaranteed by the statute. The Act states: "No person
The Statute created a regulatory authority for electronic media, the Broadcasting Council. This body is responsible for the licensing and operations of radio and television; publishing a code of ethics for broadcasters in consultation with the Media Council; and standardizing, planning and managing the frequency spectrum in the public interest so as to ensure its optimal utilization and the widest possible variety of programming, including incentive payments where appropriate to ensure provision of broadcasting to rural remote areas. The Council is also charged with licensing and operations of cinematography theatres and videotape libraries.
The Uganda Communication Commission was established by parliament and is responsible for allocation of frequencies to operators who have been approved licensed by the Broadcasting Council.
The leading broadcasters are Uganda Television and Radio Uganda, both government stations. Radio Uganda has other subsidiaries, such as Star FM, Radio Freedom, and the Green Channel. The competition for listeners is stiff in Kampala. But Radio Uganda's broadcasts reach outside Kampala, where private FM stations cannot reach, offering the government-run station a significant advantage. Within Uganda there are approximately 108 radio receivers for every 1,000 people and 26 television sets for every 1,000 people. The airwaves were liberalized in 1994 when private stations like Capital FM and Sanyu FM started their broadcasts. Capital FM has spread its wings to other parts of the country and four other towns. It plays a lot of popular Western music, which appeals to a youthful audience. News and some talk shows are also aired. Capital FM dominates morning programs with its popular show "Alex and Christine in the Morning," which runs from 7:00 am to 10:00 am every Monday to Friday. Another popular program with wide listenership is the "Capital Gang" that runs every Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. It usually has government officials, donors, and members of civil society who discuss public policy issues in the news. President Museveni has been to the Capital gang twice. It usually includes a live phone-in opportunities for the public audience. Sanyu FM, another Kampala station, is as old as the Capital FM. It has a strong signal and plays the latest music from around the world. Jazz and classical music lovers are among the station's listeners as well as the country's urban-bred youth. These private FM stations operate 24 hours a day. Since privatization in 1994, approximately 70 licenses have been issued, although not all have become operational. Nonetheless, five television stations have begun broadcasting as a result of liberalization.
State-owned Uganda Television (UTV) dominates the country's television broadcasting primarily because its signal covers about 60 percent of the country and provides the best picture and sound quality of all active Ugandan stations. UTV broadcasts 12 hours a day and approximately 40 percent of the programming content is foreign-based. In the early 2000s a new private station, the Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS), entered the market. Focused on creative news and entertainment programs, some of its content is locally produced, including two of popular shows, Showtime Magazine and Jam Agenda . WBS broadcasts for 18 hours each day and airs Cable News Network every morning.
Airing some local religious programming, Lighthouse Television depends mainly on relaying programs from the U.S.-based Trinity Broadcasting Network. Its 24-hour broadcasting format consists of religious programming and 90 minutes of CNN. In general, television reaches its highest level of viewership from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The peak time of viewing is 9:00 p.m. TV Africa, which now airs 24-hours a day in Uganda, has also taken a share of Uganda's television audience. Broadcasting from South Africa, the station's signal is not as good as UTV and WBS, but still offers Ugandan's another choice of stations with quality programming.
Pay television also exists in Uganda. Still limited to the country's small privileged class, Digital Satellite Television is beamed from South Africa into at least 400 Ugandan homes.
Private broadcasters complain about the high fees charged by government for the license to operate.
Electronic News Media
The Uganda Communication Commission issues the licenses for electronic media operations. Despite being a very new forum for the media, Uganda has 2,000 Internet service providers and 40,000 Internet users. Several newspapers, including New Vision and the Monitor , maintain Web sites.
Education & Training
The level of education for Uganda's journalists is increasing. Requirements for membership in the National Institute of Journalists of Uganda have pushed several practicing journalists back to school to improve their academic qualifications. Continuous training is also being increasingly emphasized. Specialization is encouraged in fields such as business journalism and environmental reporting. The Mass Communication Program at Makerere University offered the first journalism degree in the country in 1988. The Uganda Management Institute's School of Journalism also offers a degree program; however, in the 2000s, the school was under threatening to close due to financial difficulties. Other schools, including the Uganda Christian University, also offer journalism programs. Every year at least 150 new journalists enter the job market.
The National Institute of Journalists of Uganda, the Uganda Journalists Association, the Uganda Sports Press Association, the Uganda Press Photographers Association, and the Uganda Media Women's Association all serve to monitor and improve professional journalistic standards. The East Africa Media Institute and the Commonwealth Journalists Association are the newest additions to Uganda's professional organizations. Yet another global grouping with membership in Uganda is the U.K-based World Association of Christian Communication. Reporters Without Borders and the Uganda Journalists Safety Committee address concerns regarding journalists' welfare, including assistance for imprisoned journalists.
Since the process of liberalizing the media industry started in 1994, Uganda has experienced an increase in the number of press and media outlets, especially in the broadcast media. Although print media still experience difficulties in increasing readership, the broadcast media maintains a strong and stable viewer base. Competition is stiff but most media are active and prospering. Because Uganda is a developing country, issues of poverty, HIV/ AIDS, and governance are critical. The media play a crucial role in improving the welfare of the people by highlighting the issues and increasing the level of public debate. The country continues to lack a Freedom of Information Act, needed to balance the playing field between the government and the press and to assist the press in fulfilling the role as a watchdog for government corruption. Since the end of Amin's regime in the mid-1980s, press freedom has improved. Journalists commonly work without harassment; however, occasionally reporters are pressured and even imprisoned. The Media and Broadcast Council, which exists to service and regulate the media industry, has proven weak and ineffective. In general, the 1995 constitution is well written, but advances in press freedoms must continue to provide the country with the full services and potential of the services its media outlets can provide.
- 1997: Uganda Communications Commission Act is passed.
- 1999: Nation Group buys Monitor Publications.
- 2002: Uganda Television and Radio Uganda are brought under one leadership; Channel Television and TV Africa merge.
The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 . Kampala, Uganda: Reproduced by the Law Development Center, 1995.
Muthoni, Lynne, ed. Up in the Air: The State of the Broadcasting in Eastern Africa: Analysis and Trends in Five Countries . Panos Institute Eastern Africa, 2000.
The Press and Journalist Statute, 1995 . Kampala, Uganda: Reproduced by the Law Development Center, 1995.
Reinkka, Ritva, and Paul Collier. (eds.). Uganda's Recovery: The Role of Firms, Farms and Government .World Bank, 2000.
Uganda Human Development Report, 2000 . New York: Oxford University Press for the United Nations Development Programme, 2000.
The UNDP Human Development Report 2001 . New York: Oxford University Press for the United Nations Development Programme, 2001.
Aggrey D. Mugisha