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IFJ calls for government response to rumours of planned media crackdown

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 29 May 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Urges Public Government Response to Rumors of Media Crackdown Plan in Uganda

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Ugandan government to "clearly and publicly" respond to local media reports claiming it has set up a high-level government task force to investigate journalists and control the media.

"We call on the government to respond clearly and publicly to these allegations," said Gabriel Baglo, the Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "The government must ensure journalists and media can work in total freedom and independence in the country."

Local newspapers including The Daily Monitor, Red Pepper and The Independent reported this month that a cabinet sub-committee was set up on May 22 to investigate radio stations and newspapers that give "negative publicity to the Government."

Sources say the committee would harden the existing media laws and increase government control over the media.

In reaction to the reports, the Information Minister Kirunda Kivejinja during a press conference said that "the Constitution clearly stipulates how the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary operate but the roles of media, which is the fourth estate, were not defined," New Vision newspaper said.

"There is a need to clarify the statutes regarding media regulation in the country and journalists' working conditions," said Gabriel Baglo. "But if this committee really wants to face these issues it has to work closely with journalists and media associations, not cloak its plans in secrecy."

This debate occurs while at least ten journalists have cases pending in court. In the most recent case, three journalists working for The Independent have been charged with sedition and publication of false news. The High Court issued a stay in the case this month.

Five others from The Daily Monitor are being tried by the Inspector General of the Government on defamation charges. Two editors from the Weekly Observer are facing charges of promoting sectarianism.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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