Uncovering the News — 04/13/21 – 04/19/21
What’s At Stake: This week we give credit to the Ugandan armed forces and the media who are working to build better relations. This is a big deal for a country known for clamping down on its media institutions.
On Friday, April 16, two soccer games were held in Uganda pitting the country’s armed forces against the media. The two sides have often clashed on issues involving journalistic coverage of government activities. The media widely covers the conflicts between the two organizations.
This is welcome news for a country often cited for violations of press freedoms.
Over the past months, mentions of Ugandan armed forces’ relations with the media have been far from positive. Since November 2020, a series of events involving journalists and media professionals who were beaten, and others killed by police officers, were reported.
Meanwhile, stories about the police using excessive force with journalists were covered by Human Rights Watch, AP News, Reuters, and France 24, to name a few.
In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA), the Ugandan chief of defense forces, General David Muhoozi, explained the importance of the encounter between the two sides. He stated that since the two organizations could not avoid each other, building a solid partnership “through such light moments” was the appropriate solution to the tension between them.
This reconciliation attempt is not getting much attention. In fact, the VOA is the only media outlet to have given the story wider circulation.
Although this story from VOA is the first result when searching “Uganda police and media relations,” it does not appear in the top search results for news about the African continent—making it pretty difficult for anyone to find it unless they are specifically looking for it.
While these soccer games do not guarantee a change in police behavior and a safer environment for the media in Uganda, it is a step in the right direction that should be acknowledged.
“It’s a step that we are taking,” said Abubaker Lubowa, a Ugandan photojournalist who has been vocal about the police mistreatment of journalists. “We are not saying that all is going to be well. But we are hopeful that after this, at least, we would have built some relationship, and we will have something in common that unites us.”
The media team walked away with a victory for both games on Friday. However, both organizations were left hoping for a better Uganda where police and media can work together to keep the population safe and well informed.