Uganda has dropped five places to emerge in 117th position in this year’s World Press Freedom Index which rates the freedoms of journalists in the different countries world over.
The Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 180 countries reflects the growing animosity towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.
Last year, Uganda was ranked 112th globally (the least position being countries where the press enjoys its freedoms). However, this year, Uganda has fallen 5 places in the rankings.
Regional countries in EAC perfomed better than Uganda with exception of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tanzania ranked highest in East Africa, in 93rd place having dropped 10 places followed by Kenya in 96th position having dropped one place from last year’s Index.
Rwanda moved 3 places up to 156th position and DRC maintained its position at 154.
According to the findings by the poll, “more and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion”.
The RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said; “The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies”.
“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire,” he added.
In Africa, the Index points to frequent internet cuts, especially in Cameroon and DRC, combined with frequent attacks and arrests as the latest forms of censorship. Ghana, Namibia, South Africa an Bukina Faso are among the best performers hike Eritrea, Sudan and Djibouti are among the worst.
In Uganda, journalists continue to be physically mistreated by especially Police in addtion to cases of arbitrary arrests for example that of New Vision journalist, Charles Etukuri and veteran scribe Isaac Bakka.
The most recent incidents of violations of press freedoms were evident last week when several journalists were physically assaulted by Police officers. On two separate days, journalists were not only blocked from accessing the Naguru police headquarters where they were covering tribunal proceedings, but they were victims of the highhandedness of Police.
Rights watchdog, Uganda Human Rights Commission had for many years named Police as the most perpetrator of rights violations of all government institutions.