Wrong Move, don’t attack media, Deborah Malac tells govt of Uganda

BY Our Reporter

The U.S ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac has said the government’s attack on the media is a step in the wrong direction.

Malac, who was on Friday delivering a keynote address at a World Press Freedom Day national conference at Golf Course Hotel, said Uganda Communication Commission (UCC)’s recent directives to radios and TVs is indicative that media is under assault for doing its job.

On Wednesday, UCC ordered six televisions and seven radio stations to suspend its staff over alleged breach of minimum broadcasting standards. The affected media houses are; NTV, NBS Tv, BBS Tv, Bukedde Tv, Salt Tv, Akaboozi Fm, Beat Fm, Bukedde Tv, Capital Fm, CBS Fm, Kingdom Tv, Pearl Fm, Sapientia Fm, and Simba Fm.

Malac wondered why UCC hastily issued directives without defining sections of broadcasting standards that were allegedly breached by the media houses.

She pointed out other “quite concerning” trends curtailing media freedom in Uganda such as the closure of radio stations, hiking levies paid by radios and TVs, and proposal of new regulations. This repression of media, Malac said has a long-lasting effect on the media environment in Uganda.

Photo Credit: Faisal Kasirye
Photo Credit: Faisal Kasirye

Malac also referred to 2019 World Press Freedom Index where Uganda dropped 8 places–from 117 placings of 2018 to 125–out of 180 states ranked. Such performance and repression, she says send a wrong message to Ugandans.

Malac reaffirmed US mission support to the promotion of press freedom in Uganda and strengthening the organization of journalists.

“We, of course, must use our collective influence to urge the government to improve its record.

Today, as we have done in the past, the United State strongly urges the Uganda government to take action to protect and defend press freedom and to hold individuals who violate this freedom accountable,” Malac said.

Meanwhile, the European Union has expressed concern over the restriction of freedom of expression of the media and assembly in Uganda.

In their joint release issued on Friday, the European Union noted that they are deeply concerned by a series of recent incidents restricting the freedom of expression and assembly in Uganda, in particular, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)’s decision to suspend staff of 13 media houses over allegations of breaching minimum broadcasting standards.

“We are also concerned about the excessive use of force by the Uganda police and security forces against peaceful protestors and opposition.” The statement reads.

“We urge the Government to ensure the implementation of all the relevant laws and regulations in a way that allows all Ugandans irrespective of their political affiliations, to exercise fully and without fear, their basic democratic rights enshrined in the constitution,” the statement says.

EU also underlines the importance of upholding judicial processes and stressed the importance of full respect for the rule of law and the right to a fair trial as set down in the constitution.

Deborah Malac asks government to address teenage pregnancies

The United States Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac has asked the government to do more to reduce on the high number of teenage pregnancies.

Ambassador Malac also said that avoiding teenage pregnancies should not be the role of the parents but also the government.

“There is need by the government to address teenage pregnancy. It is not only the parents, but the government should also work together to protect the young girls,” Malac said.

Malac was speaking on Thursday in Kabarole district at the opening ceremony of the newly refurbished maternity unit at Bukuku Health Centre IV. The facility that cost 1.2 Billion Shillings was renovated with funding from the Centre for Disease Control-CDC under the Saving Mothers Giving Life – SMGL programme.

Richard Rwabuhinga, the Kabarole district LCV Chairperson had earlier told Ambassador Malac that the US government should support the district to reduce teenage pregnancy which he says stands at 32 percent and is one of the causes of school drop-outs.

Malac however tasked the district to work with parents, religious and cultural leaders in mobilising the community on the dangers of teenage pregnancies and preach abstinence from sex until the girls are old enough.

“Unwanted and unplanned pregnancies result into complications. The leaders, medical workers should emphasise that all girls should be encouraged to stay in school long enough to acquire education and skills,” Malac said.

Malac also asked men to test so that they are able to know their status. She added that the US will continue offering support to Uganda under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS ReliefPEPFAR.
Dr. Adeodata Kekitiinwa, the Executive Director Baylor Uganda said that 24 percent of maternal deaths in Uganda are a result of teenage pregnancies.

Records at the newly refurbished maternity unit indicate that the number of deliveries have increased from 12 in 2012 to 56 in 2016. The facility is equipped with 30 delivery beds and 10 incubators. It is also connected to the national power grid.

The Uganda Demographic Health survey 2015 indicates that about 14 per cent of young women and 16 per cent of young men had their first sexual encounter before the age of 15 while 57 per cent of young women had their first encounter before the age of 18.

According to the Population secretariat, of the 1.2 million pregnancies recorded in Uganda annually, 25 percent are teenage pregnancies. The secretariat also notes that the more than 300,000 teenagers who get pregnant annually also account for the bulk of unwanted pregnancies, which end up in unintended births or abortion.