The Uganda Editors’ Guild (UEG) has announced a boycott of all government press briefings by the private media houses until the presidential directive on channelling all government advertising to UBC and New Vision is reversed.
According to UEG, while they aware that President Museveni, who issued the directive, will meet the Executives of the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) on 10th August 2023 over the matter, the status quo must be maintained.
“Until a resolution is reached, the media will boycott government press briefings in protest against the unconstitutional directive on government advertising,” UEG said in a statement issued on Monday, 24 July 2023.
On March 6, 2023, President Yoweri Museveni directed that all government advertising be channeled solely through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and Print media through the New Vision (NV). The directive was further reinforced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance on July 10, 2023, during the release of funds for the first quarter of the current financial year.
But the editors say this directive results in an unfair and discriminatory practice that is detrimental to media freedom and the equitable distribution of public funds.
“The directive to exclusively utilise UBC and NV for government advertising infringes upon Article 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, which strictly abhors discrimination based on social, religious, and economic standing, among other criteria. Such a move is in violation of the liberalized economy trajectory adopted by Uganda in the 1990s, where public agencies are expected to compete fairly with the private sector for revenue and government business,” EUG said.
By monopolizing government advertising through these channels, the editors say independent media houses are unjustly denied the opportunity to compete for government advertising revenue, stifling their growth and hindering their ability to employ journalists and other professionals.
“Article 40(2) of the Constitution of Uganda grants every individual the right to practice their profession and carry-on lawful occupations, trade, and business. By monopolizing government advertising through UBC and NV, other media organizations are denied fair opportunities to participate in the competitive market, leading to significant financial repercussions. This directive severely jeopardizes the livelihoods of journalists and media professionals across the country,” they said in a statement.
According to UEG, the allocation and usage of public funds, including tax revenues, should be conducted with utmost transparency and accountability.
“We urge the government to abandon the directive and seek alternative solutions that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of government advertising funds. The UEG demands for continued engagement between stakeholders in the media industry and the government to address these pressing issues and find a constructive way forward,” they said.
The Uganda Editors’ Guild is an association of the country’s senior editors and media scholars
formed to foster professional and viable media that effectively advances a democratic society by
promoting media freedom, credibility and professionalism. At its core, the philosophy behind
the Uganda Editors’ Guild is that editors must lead from the front in pursuing media freedom and
professionalism, and that we must produce journalism worth fighting for.