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World Press Freedom Day 2024: HRNJ reaffirms its commitment to protect press freedom

KAMPALA, May 3, 2024 – The Human Rights Network For Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) stands united with the global community on this year’s World Press Freedom Day under the theme “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of Environmental Crisis.”

The timing of this theme could not be more crucial as Uganda grapples with the harsh realities of climate change, witnessing prolonged dry seasons and intense rainfall as the new norm. This juxtaposition places Uganda in a precarious position where dry seasons bring hardship, yet heavy rains bring devastation, highlighting the urgent need for action.

The root cause of this dilemma lies in environmental degradation, with vast forests sacrificed for commercial ventures, weakening the land’s ability to withstand heavy rainfall. The resulting floods wreak havoc on homes, crops, and businesses, posing a dire threat to current and future generations.

While journalists are pivotal in informing society, their ability to report on environmental issues is hindered by powerful individuals and state entities, making it a dangerous endeavor. Shockingly, since 2020, 12 journalists have been arbitrarily arrested while covering environmental degradation, impeding their crucial role in raising awareness.

Specific cases such as the obstruction of coverage on illegal logging in Zoka rainforest and protests against projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline highlight the pervasive risks faced by journalists striving to expose environmental degradation.

Our annual Press Freedom Index paints a bleak picture of escalating abuses against press freedom in Uganda, underscoring the urgent need for action. We call on the government to uphold an independent and pluralistic media that holds all accountable for environmental degradation.

Moreover, ensuring fair compensation for journalists, ending impunity for crimes against them, and enhancing their capacity on environmental issues are crucial steps towards addressing the knowledge gap.

We urge the Ugandan government to fully implement the 10th principle of the Rio Declaration, granting every individual access to environmental information. Media outlets and journalists must actively engage the public on the perils of environmental degradation, fostering discussions for sustainable solutions.

In recognition of journalists’ crucial role, we advocate for World Press Freedom Day to be gazetted as a public holiday, providing stakeholders with the opportunity to reflect on annual challenges within the industry.

On this World Press Freedom Day, we extend our wishes to journalists across all platforms, acknowledging their invaluable contributions to safeguarding press freedom and environmental protection.

For God and My country

ROBERT SSEMPALA,

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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