REPORT ABOUT THE STATUS OF UJA BETWEEN OCTOBER 2018- OCTOBER 2020.
Dear esteemed fellow journalists, UJA members, ladies and gentlemen, I greet you all. Let me also take this opportunity to appreciate your continued noble services to the nation especially during the period when the whole country was on the lock down arising from the corona virus pandemic threat, which has significantly impacted businesses and various community activities. So, I salute you all and welcome you to this 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in which we have come together and hold discussions on various issues touching our association as well as changing its leadership.
On 8th September 2018, our association had elections through which a team of outgoing executive leaders including myself, were elected. Those elections were conducted at one of the facilities of the Uganda Supreme Council-Old Kampala in Kampala City. After elections, leaders took oaths on 12th October 2018 and officially assumed offices and started serving you through our association, the Uganda Journalist Association(UJA).
An executive leadership retreat was held around that same time at Tagy Hotel in Kampala led by the outgoing president Haj Kazibwe Bashir Mbaziira and plans were laid down on how we were to rejuvenate UJA which was at the time of our entry into leadership had lost its glory and might.
Among the things that were set out to be done was reviving UJA’s dented image and reputation, opening up a Sacco as one way to improve journalists welfare, defending and promoting journalists rights and freedoms as enshrined in both ours and the nation’s 1995 constitution, finding space for UJA offices, uniting journalists, conducting journalists national consensus to establish their actual number and there after build their data base, building and restoring partnerships with development partners including Embassies, NGO’s, foreign journalists fellowships and Government agencies as well as committing for further advocacy of improved journalists welfare. The plans were eventually started to be put into action.
There was relocation of offices from Namirembe road to Entebbe road in early 2019 after securing the office space in a better environment than the one at Namirembe road which was characterized by congestion.
During the two years the outgoing executive team has spent into the leadership, the following achievements were successfully registered:
Revival of the association. The executive team had embarked on the campaign of reviving and rejuvenating the UJA’s image. We held outreach meetings with various corporate, Government, religious and cultural leaders, heads of embassies, local community leaders and the communities and NGO’s through which we managed to restore their trust and confidence into the association which had been lost. UJA is now vibrant again, it is known and felt everywhere when it speaks. This however doesn’t suggest that more efforts should not be made to intensify its vibrancy.
Resolution of conflicts between some journalists. On 16th July 2019, an eight member committee chaired by the representative for Central Region mr.Mohammed Ssendegeya was established by the executive led by the president to inquire into the conflict which had broken out between the Salt Media journalists and other journalists including Godfrey Katongole of Vision Group, arising from a story that had implicated the Salt Media proprietor pastor Alloysius Bugingo. Report findings after investigations later implicated the Salt journalists. The executive eventually used the same report to resolve the differences between all the warring parties.
The executive through its members mr. Arnold Mukose the Secretary for human rights and the Representative for Central Region mr.Mohammed Ssendegeya were sent to resolve the conflict with Masaka based journalists under SOBUJA in Masaka,that had turned out to threaten the safety of their lives and employment.
The executive held meetings with the Parliament of the republic of Uganda in a bid to advance the promotion and defense of the fundamental human rights. We had interactions with Parliamentary committees such as the one which was investigating issues of sexual harassment in schools, Parliamentary human rights committee and committee on national economy and submissions were made to them in respect to issues impacting journalism profession and the public.
We took leadership as a wider and oldest journalism body in the country in arranging the celebrations to mark the World Press Freedom Days (WPFD). Two WPFDs were celebrated during the 2years of our leadership, that is, the one of May 3rd 2019 and the other of May 3rd 2020 during the total lockdown of the country. We worked with other press advocating rights organizations with help of the DGF.
We entered partnerships with legal organizations such as CEPIL and LASPNET with an aim of building a strong a team to provide legal services to journalists whose rights and freedoms faced violations, along with our lawyer counsel Eron Kiiza.
The executive took on a Court case in April 2019 in which it was challenging an attack on journalists Hannington Kisakye and Eric Yiga who were assaulted by the senior Court registrar mr.Godfrey Waninda. All case requirements were presented to Court. However the case dismissed by the trial judge Adrew Bahaijja against UJA under un clear circumstances, despite the fulfilment of all the requirements, which our legal team protested, hence necessitating an appeal against the judgement.
We saved 39 media practitioners from 13 Media houses that had been indefinitely suspended from work on orders of the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) over the then MP Bobi Wine news broadcasts. UJA filled a case petition against the UCC acts through our lawyer Eron Kiiza which was ruled in journalists favor by her lordship justice Lydia Mugambe of the high Court. The Media Practitioner that had been sent off work were restored by the Court following the victory that we had over the UCC. We equally helped a UBC company’s journalist Peter Otayi to file a petition against the Uganda’s ambassador to Burundi Gen.Matayo Kyaligonza challenging his assault by his guards when he was capturing a video exposing his brutal attack on a traffic police women in Seeta-Mukono district, who was on duty.
We challenged the assault of sports journalists Piece Diane Bagala and Kenneth Muwanga by the Updf soldiers which occurred when they were covering the game between the Vipers Football Club and Kajjansi United. Eventually this case was settled with compensations to the victims through talks.
We had meetings with heads of some foreign missions (embassies) including among others, the US embassy officials. Through such meetings we discussed a lot of things that would be healthier to our profession and journalists in general.
We managed to mobilize some limited resources from amongst us and procured some items for our office which we had found with only one plastic table, one computer and two chairs upon entry. We bought a flat tv screen, lockers, furniture particularly tables, two additional computers, plastic chairs, a landline table phone, etc. Those items are all in our office as you may see.
Dear members, allow me also to inform you that we were able to acquire UJA a permanent home for the members of the fourth estate. Named UJA house, this property premises where we are convening now was acquired through a swap deal with one of the neighbors of a plot of the land which the association owned in Komamboga. It was not and would not be viable to the association given its value, size and location, that’s why we swapped it using the power that you entrusted with us. This land here occupied by the house is viable and titled. It is an astounding success in the history of this oldest journalist association in Uganda. We are no longer renting as we used too.
We had given out food relief items of 4475 kgs of maize flour, 200kgs of rice, 200kgs of sugar and 1100 kgs of beans 700 journalists in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Mityana, Mpigi and Mubende districts. During the lockdown when most of the businesses and services had been closed down by the Government in order to prevent the further spread of corona virus in the country, the Media (journalists) were not stopped given the essence of their services.
Due to the adverse effects of the virus on the economy, a number of journalists were forced to work from home and retrenched by their employers without further support to them in terms of wages, which necessitated the need for their help with their families. The food relief was mobilized from some members of the society who felt that it was necessary to extend some assistance to the affected journalists through UJA, since they had sacrificed to serve the nation during the worst days when one could not stand with them.
When the security forces (police and army) had endlessly blatantly violated the Media rights and freedoms coupled with harassment of journalists while in the line of duty, UJA in collaboration with the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association and HRNJ mobilized journalist’s demonstrations against them. Peaceful processions and demonstrations were held until when there was a positive response to us by the higher authorities.
UJA monthly and weekly press discourses were successfully revived. Through those discourses which are still being held here at our home, leaders from various public offices are invited to interact with journalists on various emerging issues of public importance on behalf of the society.
We had engagements with various university and tertiary institution journalism and mass com students for purposes of deepening our roots at the institutions of higher learning. Through our Secretary for Education mr.Emmanuel Kirunda, we held fruitful meetings with students at Makerere University, Mutesa 1 the royal university, Ymca University, Umcat among others.
There was rejuvenation and restoration of our official social media platforms (face book: Uganda Journalists Association- UJA, Twitter: @UJAofficial, website: www.ujaofficial.org and the pen magazine publication.
During our two years in leadership we also encountered the following challenges:
Limited funding arising from the closure of sources which UJA had with the development partners in the past.
We had embarked on plans to cause amendments in the Press and Journalist Act with the GIZ but later they were fruitless after that potential sponsor lost interest into the project.
Reluctancy by members to renew their annual membership subscriptions to enable the association operations run smoothly. So, dear UJA members, we encourage you always to meet your obligation of membership and subscription annual fees as opposed to response during elections.
Persist attacks on journalists by the state security agencies (army and police) while executing their lawful duties.
There is a clique of journalists that has turned out to spread malicious propaganda against UJA due to selfish interests by the persons in it. We have learnt that that group has got funders to disrupt the stability and progress of UJA, which should never be accepted by all of us.
In Conclusion, where UJA has reached is able to take off and realize significant gains for our benefit, all which I believe the next cabinet will dwell much to make it happen. Therefore, I encourage all of us to stand together whenever needed by the executive to push through all the constructive agendas that are a necessity to the further growth of our association. God bless you all.
Approved by the Executive,
Presented by the Secretary General, Moses Bayola on 12th December,2020 At the general assembly.
Our motto: is “The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword”.
Our office: UJA home is located in Kawempe Divison along Bombo Road-Plot 1506 -Keti Falawo Zone. Box number: P.O Box 34506 Kampala City-Uganda.
Tel : +256 414662163
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twitter : @UJAofficial.
Web : UJAofficial.org.
Facebook : Uganda Journalists Association-UJA