Kampala, 5th January 2021: Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, East African Media Institute and Centre for Public Interest Law have Monday 5th January 2021, filed an application in the Constitutional Court seeking a temporary injunction restraining the Media Council of Uganda from enforcing its guidelines of accrediting journalists to cover the 2021 elections and other State events
The Miscellaneous Application No. 01 0f 2021 comes after the trio jointly filed a petition in the Constitutional in 2014 registered under Constitutional Petition N0.009 of 2014 challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of the Press and Journalists Act Cap. 105 some of which are being invoked by the Media Council of Uganda now to accredit local and foreign journalists covering elections. The application has been filed through HRNJ-Uganda lawyers Wameli & Co. Advocates.
It is also worth noting that the parties also filed an application for a certificate of urgency registered under Miscellaneous Application No. 02 to allow the application to be heard expeditiously during this period of court vacation because elections have a limited period of time with voting coming on the 14th Jan 2021.
On 10th December 2020, the Media Council of Uganda issued a statement requiring all persons, whether local or foreign media practitioners, covering elections and other State events to hold a press tag issued by the Media Council and without it, no one would the allowed to cover the events. According to the Media Council of Uganda, the registration process “will ensure the safety and security of journalists”. Other valid accreditations held by the Foreign correspondents were immediately terminated.
It’s important to note that the press statement was issued at a time when most journalists were upcountry covering campaign trails of presidential candidates and there was limited time of seven days, which was later pushed to an additional seven to enable them to get involved in the exercise.
Also, the timing for registration is questionable given that some journalists who presented all their credentials much earlier had not been registered. Some journalists expressed concern over the Shs.200,000/= (USD.55) fees for the registration.
Many proprietors of media houses, Editors, and Media development organizations have expressed concerns over the timing and suspicious intentions over this process.
The petition by HRNJ-Uganda adds to others by the CEPIL, Hub for Freedom of Expression, Editors Guild of Uganda among others seeking to stay the Media Council directives.
“We are certain that continued pursuit of accreditation for journalists to cover elections will disenfranchise most of them who will not be able to register during this limited period of time, and this will certainly limit the free flow of information to the wider citizenry and hence their decisions to make informed decisions. The Media Council needs to open up this process till after elections” Said HRNJ-Uganda’ Executive Director, Robert Ssempala