Minister Attacks US Ambassador Over Uganda Press Freedom

Information and ICT Minister Frank Tumwebaze Thursday morning woke up in arms against United States Ambassador Deborah Malac, who called out the Government of Uganda for gagging its press.

Malac had Wednesday appealed to stakeholders and consumers of media work in Uganda to “join hands in activities rooting for fair and free media environment.”

The ambassador made the call while officiating at the launch of Uganda Press Photo Award book in Kampala.

She warned during her speech, “Press freedom is under assault in Uganda. It needs all our efforts to make things better for journalists and it’s achievable.”

But when she took to Twitter to drive her point home, Minister Frank Tumwebaze clapped back, advising her to first put her house (United States) in order, before coming after the Ugandan government and its treatment of the Press.

The minister hastened to remind Ambassador Malac that her president back home has not been fairer to the American press

Tumwebaze in a reply to Malac’s tweet noted that the situation in Uganda was “Not as worse as in your own country where your President can’t even tolerate questions from critical journalists at a press conference.

“Put your own house in order first and then try to help others,” he added.

The minister’s response received immediate backing from government sympathisers including from veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda.

Ambassador Malac and many other United States Foreign diplomats have not had it easy since President Donald Trump took office in January this year.

The President has received condemnation as he relentlessly attacked US journalists as “the enemy of the American people” and “among the worst people I’ve ever met.”

With his continuous labelling of mostly the left wing media houses who are critical of his agenda as “Fake News,” Trump has, according to analysts, dented the long-time international view of the United States as the uncompromising champion of freedom of the press.

Trump’s assault on the media, along with his ceaseless internationally unpopular policies and acts such as pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, attacking leaders of America’s strongest allies such as UK, fuelling a possible nuclear war with North Korea, siding with racist and extremist groups; have all made the work of US foreign diplomats more difficult.

Many of US diplomats as a result, have decided to quit their jobs. According to US media, up to 60 percent of US career ambassadors left their jobs after President Donald Trump took office early this year.

The United States Department of State, the equivalent of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, as of last month had 74 top posts that remain vacant with no announced nominees.

In recent interview, when asked about these unfilled positions, President Trump said, “I am the only one that matters.”

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