By Andrew Irumba
Kampala:The United Nations has urged governments all over the world to ensure that there is prevailing freedom of the press if their countries are to achieve total democratic governance and accountability.
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), almost 100 journalists were killed while going about their work in 2018, with hundreds others imprisoned. A total of 1,307 journalists were killed between 1994, and 2018.
“At a time when disinformation and mistrust of the news media is growing, a free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, while commemorating the World Press day, which is marked every May 3rd.
According to Guterres, no democracy is incomplete without access to transparent and reliable information. He described unfettered journalism as “the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.”
“Facts, not falsehoods, should guide people as they choose their representatives”, said the UN chief, noting that while technology has transformed the ways in which we receive and share information, sometimes it is used to mislead public opinion or to fuel violence and hatred. The World Press Freedom day is used to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world and to defend the media from attacks on their independence. It is also a moment to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
This year’s commemorations which began on Thursday across the world are focusing on the powerful role that good reporting plays in championing democracy and free election when disinformation is becoming a larger problem in even the world’s oldest and most sophisticated democratic systems. However, the day comes at a time when press freedom in Uganda is being muzzled by state apparatus, on top of numerous attacks on journalists by police, government officials and individuals.
Guterres said he was deeply troubled by the growing number of attacks against media workers and the culture of impunity among perpetrators of such attacks. The head of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said in her message for the day that it was essential to guarantee freedom of opinion through the free exchange of ideas and information, based on factual truths. She said societies which value a free press, needed to constantly be vigilant and act together to protect the freedom of expression and safety of journalists.