MEDIA AND ELECTIONS IN UGANDA

DELIVERED AT THE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY DIALOGUE, 3RD MAY, 2019, GOLF COURSE HOTEL, KAMPALA, UGANDA.

  1. 1. INTRODUCTION.

In his book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’, Francis Fukuyama postulated that liberal democracy constituted ‘the end point of mankind’s ideological revolution and the ‘final form of human government’. [1] Fukuyama envisaged liberal democracy as a ‘more pluralist model’, giving rise to a free state whose values include good governance, respect for individual rights and freedoms, better delivery of services and political empowerment. Largely driven by this ideology, Huntington argued that in such a political model, ‘the right to speak, publish, assemble and organise’ would be supreme. [2] In tandem with this school of thought, Roper argued that ‘democracy is responsive, guarantees liberties, encourages participation and ultimately promotes political equality’.[3] Participation, a key ingredient of this model, it is argued, promotes ‘active citizenship’ as opposed to a ‘passive society’ and confers a ‘sense of freedom’ to the individual.[4]

In a liberal democratic state, the media plays an important role in building an informed society. Citizens need credible information from media that can moderate debate and provoke meaningful conversations that can lead to societal transformation. The media has a more critical role: through its traditional function – to inform, educate and entertain, it plays a catalytic role of deepening and institutionalising democracy.

Dr Livingstone Sewanyana

Though considered as the ‘fourth estate’, the media and government in many neo-liberal African countries including Uganda is at loggerheads. Chinje, argues that government and media are two sides of the same coin. If they fight they destroy the coin. While government brings policy, the media should bring information about those policies to enrich the ideas and improve their implementation for the good of society. [5] According to Mukum Mbaku, Senior Fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, free and independent media is instrumental in cleaning up corruption and enhancing bureaucratic accountability.[6]

Journalists see themselves as watchdogs . To enable the media to function effectively as such, journalists need to be guaranteed the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is provided for in Article 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Uganda, Article 19 of the UDHR, Article 9 of the ACHPR; Article 19, and Article 25 of the ICCPR . [7] But in practice what does the right to freedom of speech and expression including the media mean?

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[1] Francis Fukuyama End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin Books, 1992) xi.

[2] Samuel P. Huntington   The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).

[3] Jon Roper Democracy and its Critics: Anglo-American Democratic Thought in the Nineteenth Century (London: Unwin Hyman Ltd, 1984) 204.

[4] Roper op cit note 3.

[5] A New Era for African Media ‘available at https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/august-2016/new-era-african-media [accessed 30 April,2019].

[6] Ibid.

[7] Adopted on 16 December 1966, UN General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI), 21 UN GA0R Supp (NO.16) at 52, UN Doc A/6316,999 UNTS 171, entered into force on 23 March 1976.