Presidential Elections Act 2005

It was enacted in 2005 to cater for the qualifications of those aspiring to contest for the presidency of Uganda, disqualification, conduct of campaigns, declaration of results and the procedures of challenging the outcomes of the presidential elections. Although the law is not directed to the media per say, it contains provisions that affect its operations and freedom of expression in general.

Section 23 (1) and (2) of the Act guarantees all presidential candidates equal treatment by public institutions and authorities during campaigns as well as enjoyment of “complete and unhindered” freedom of expression and access to information.

Section 24 of the Act imposes unjustifiable and broad restrictions on the right of candidates and the media as well penalties. The Section provides that:

(1) All presidential candidates shall be given equal treatment on the State owned media to present their programmes to the people.

(2) Subject to any other law, during the campaign period, any candidate may, either alone or in common with others, publish campaign materials in the form of books, booklets, pamphlets, leaflets, magazines, newspapers or posters intended to solicit votes from voters but shall, in any such publication specify particulars to identify the candidate or candidates concerned.

The section makes it an offence for the media to publish information which does not contain the full details of the author as well as ‘knowingly’ allows the candidates to use the media to convey the criminalized speech stated in the section of the law.

These limitations on the enjoyment of freedom of expression are constitutionally invalid and do not conform to the universal values and principles in a democratic society.