In November 2013, the Uganda Journalist Association facilitated the establishment of the first ever Parliamentary Forum on Media in Uganda (UPFM). It is a non-partisan organisation of Members of Parliament with the Speaker of Parliament as its patron. The UPFM was born out of the need to have issues of the media and freedom of expression well-articulated on the floor of Parliament. The Forum brings together over 60 legislators, who dedicated themselves to the cause of media freedom and freedom of expression. They work closely together with human rights experts and media practitioners. “This engagement between Members of Parliament and media practitioners is very important because most times we don’t seem to understand one another”, says UPFM Chairperson Hon. Mariam Nalubega. “Members of Parliament think that journalists overstep their boundaries yet journalists maintain that they are only doing their job. This forum helps to harmonize this relationship and work to complement each other”.
So far UPFM has facilitated six forum sessions and presented four policy briefs on issues such as legal Frameworks, media ethics, cyber safety and working conditions of journalists.
Links have also been established with other media organizations such as the Human Rights Network for Journalists and the Media NGO Unwanted Witness. “When the sources of journalism are threatened, there is no journalism. Free media should be guarded jealously”, stresses Jeff Ssebaggala, a veteran human rights reporter, who was the main speaker at UPFM’s forum on digital media rights and internet freedom.
The Forum has initiated an assessment of international standards and shortfalls in Ugandan media laws as well as a survey on media perception of the Ugandan public. It is also engaging with the National Planning Authority to ensure that issues of media freedom are mainstreamed in the National Plan.
In November 2014, UPFM launched a 5 Year Strategic Plan. Intended key results include a legal and policy framework supportive of freedom of expression and media, a competent and independent self-regulatory mechanism, a national media policy and provisions for safety of journalists integrated within the national human rights plan of action.
You can also watch a video that was shot during one of the UPFM sessions: