In a Judgement delivered today, Justice Esta Nambayo quashed the directive by the Uganda Media Council and stated that the compulsory accreditation of journalists has been held at both national and international levels to be a hindrance to effective enjoyment to the right to freedom of expression
Lady Justice Esta Nambayo issued the order
The High Court in Kampala has
quashed the directive seeking to have all journalists registered and accredited by the Media Council of Uganda, for purposes of covering elections and other state events. The court also issued a permanent injunction against the Media Council's attempt to register journalists in the absence of a fully functioning National Institute of Journalists-
The council issued a directive on
December 10, 2020, requiring all Journalists to register within seven days, for
Subsequently, the Uganda police issued a notice indicating that the police and
sister security agencies would recognize only those persons on the Media
Council register during the coverage of political campaigns and other electoral
Paul Ekochu, the Council
chairperson stated thereafter that criminal charges would be slapped on any
media house, both local and international, including freelance journalists who
failed to register. In the aftermath of the pronouncements, the Editors Guild Uganda,
an association that brings together editors, senior journalists and Scholars of
Journalism opted to challenge the matter in court.
The Guild, together with the
Centre for Public Interest Law Limited, sought an order quashing the
registration and accreditation process for being illegal, and irregular, for
lack of a fully constituted Media Council and lack of quorum. The two bodies also
sought an order to restrain the Media Council of Uganda and any other
regulatory agents of government and security organs from illegally and
irrationally curtailing media and press freedom.
They argued that the registration
of journalists by the Media Council of Uganda, without an operational National
Institute of Journalists of Uganda to enrol journalists under the Press and
Journalist Act was illegal. According to the act, the Media council is only
supposed to issue practising certificates to journalists who have presented
certificates of enrolment issued by the National Institute of Journalists of
Uganda (NIJU)” and paid the prescribed fees.
Daniel Kalinaki, the Interim
Chairperson of the Editors Guild stated that the directives by the Uganda Media
Council are ill-intended with the effect of suppressing and illegally
curtailing media and press freedom and independence, as well as
constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression, access to information and
the practice of journalism as a profession.
"The impugned directive will
have the effect of fueling the brutality of the security agencies and malicious
prosecution against Journalists in the guise of enforcing and implementing the impugned directive, further curtailing and unreasonably restricting
constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights", Kalinaki said in an
Additionally, the supportive
affidavit by the Acting Executive Director of Public Interest Law Limited
Francis Alfonse Obonyo shows that the Press and Journalist Act gives the
mandate to enrol Journalists to the membership of the National Institute of
Journalists of Uganda and to issue a certificate of enrollment before they are
registered by the Media Council.
But his evidence indicated that
the Institute is also defunct, unconstitutional and non-operational. Without
this, Obonyo argues that it's impossible to register Journalists and any
attempt at it would constitute illegality. The council is supposed to have two
representatives from the NIJU.
In a Judgement delivered today, Justice
Esta Nambayo quashed the directive by the Uganda Media Council and stated that
the compulsory accreditation of journalists has been held at both national and
international levels to be a hindrance to effective enjoyment to the right to
freedom of expression.
The Judge acknowledges
that government's failure to operationalize the National Institute of Journalists
of Uganda established under the Press and Journalists of Uganda to enrol
journalists with the Press and Journalists Act is illegal. She also directed the government to pay the costs of the
suit to the applicants.