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Speech by Hon. Minister for Information and National Guidance on the Inauguration of the Media Council - 24th October 2011

Monday, 24th October 2011

The Permanent Secretary
Office of the Prime Minister
Distinguished Guests
Esteemed members of the Media Council
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to be here this afternoon to inaugurate the Media Council, a Statutory Body that regulates the Media.

Recall that; Article 29 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, provides for the right of freedom of expression and speech, which shall include freedom of press and other media.

In realization of this, Parliament had to enact laws that would operationalise this provision, hence the enactment of the Press and Journalist Act of 1995 and Electronic Media Act of 1996.

The purpose of these laws was to ensure that the Journalists and the Public enjoy these freedoms and at the same time do not use them to hurt others or other National interests.
Secondly, it was also intended to ensure that there is order in the Journalism Profession.

This is the 7th Council to be inaugurated, since 1995 when the Media Council was established and charged with regulation of the mass media.
It is up to you to take stock and gauge, whether the Council has lived to this objective and to advise on the way forward.

By the powers of Press and Journalist Act 1995, the Minister for Information is empowered to appoint the Media Council members as nominated by their respective constituencies (Stakeholders). I'm here to fulfill this statutory requirement.

You are aware that 16 years have passed since the Press and Journalists Act was enacted. You also know that the Media landscape has changed a lot. You may find that the Constituencies envisaged by the Law may no longer be wholly representative; the new trends like the convergence of technologies and the increasing usage of the social media also pose new challenges.

There is a section of the Media which loathes the Statutory Media Council in preference for an Independent Media Council, expousing the notion of Media self regulation and self censorship. All this calls for the need to harmonise ideas and move forward.

We therefore have an obligation as stakeholders to propose new reforms in this Law that will take care of all these interests.

The Press and Journalist Amendment Bill 2010 was an effort in this direction. I am aware it generated a lot of debate and criticism from a cross section of the Media. We shall continue to put our heads together in order to come up with a consensus on the best media Laws for our country.

In this Law, we should propose legal provisions aimed at strengthening the Media Council in terms of Judicial and administrative efficacy. The Press and Journalist Act did not clearly define the way the Media Council should be funded which was a great omission.

I am also aware that the main obstacle to the execution of the functions of the Council is inappropriate legislation and lack of funding. These issues should be debated and solutions found.

I am aware that the outgoing Council submitted proposals to my Predecessors in this respect. I still welcome more proposals from this new Council as it has been bolstered with new brains. The old Members could also have developed new ideas.

I wish to thank the out -going Council for the tremendous work done within limited resources. I particularly commend them for the effort to fight pornography especially in the print media. The vice is still rampant, but please do not give up the fight. Government is drafting the Pornography Bill which we are sure will adequately tackle the issue of pornography. Section 166 of the Penal Code forbids trafficking in obscene publications. It does not however clearly define what constitutes pornography. Times have changed as well; we hope that the new legislation on pornography will cover this loophole.

I congratulate those of you who have been re-appointed and thank you for accepting to continue serving on the Council.

I equally welcome members who have come to the Council for the first time, and I thank you for accepting to serve on the Council. Owing to the limited resources, Media Council work becomes voluntary most of the time, so it is a patriotic spirit to accept to serve on the Council.

During your term of office, I request you to prevail upon the Media to publish and broadcast according to the ethical standards as provided in the Professional Code of Ethics (Press and Journalist Act, of 1995).

The mainstream Media have done well in upholding these ethics which is commendable and a sign of maturity in our Media. However, we still have a problem with some Tabloids. It is your duty to ensure that they also conform to Professional Media Ethics.

Regarding complaints / disputes forwarded to the Council, you are expected to expeditiously dispose of them without unnecessary legal technicalities. Issues of violation of the Ethical Code of Conduct are clear-cut and obvious.
I hereby inaugurate this Council.