Journalists who have not re-registered will now be free to do their expected duties during the elections, without fear of arrest as the Uganda Media Council had directed in a circular to police all over the country.
Although the Electoral Commission had also earlier required journalists to clear with the Media Council before it can
accredit them to cover the 2021 general elections, they have rescinded the
In the latest circular by the electoral commission’s Vice Chairperson Hajjat Aisha Lubega to city and district
returning officers, the commission has issued guidance on the criteria needed
to accredit journalists who wish to cover the forthcoming general election.
According to the circular, all journalists who wish to cover
the electoral process will be granted access as long as they have
identification from their media houses.
personnel will only be required to present a valid identification/press cards
issued by their media houses, in order to access the polling stations and
respective district/city tally centres,” the circular reads in part. However,
each returning officer is told not to allow more than two
reporters from one media house to comply with the COVID-19 standard operating
The EC's communication brings to an end the days long stand off between Editors and the media council over the contested registration requirement. While the media council had directed that police arrest any journalist found covering the elections without having re-registered with them, the editors question the very legality of the media council in the first place since it it is not lawfully constituted. The editors went to court seeking seeking an injunction against a directive by the apparently unlawful body.
In December last year, the Electoral Commission had
issued a statement indicating that the press would be required to prove that
their registration status with the respective regulatory authorities before
being accredited to cover the polls.
The statement came at the backdrop of the Media Council
of Uganda’s directive requiring all Journalists, both local and international,
to register within seven days, for accreditation.
Since then, there has been a heated debate on timeliness,
justification, and relevancy of the Media Council’s which media scholars and
experts say is working illegally as it is not fully constituted as the law
The Uganda Editors Guild, an umbrella body that brings
together Editors, senior journalists, and Scholars of Journalism, petitioned
the court seeking an order to restrain the media council and security organs
from illegally and irrationally curtailing media and press freedom of
journalists to cover the 2021 general election and other state events. Court
had set January 10 to pronounce its self on the matter.
Robert Ssempala, the National Coordinator of Human Rights
Network for Journalists-Uganda, says the development gives hope to journalists
as the said accreditation by the media council had a series of challenges
including rejection of some journalists’ applications.
“Changing the rules of engagement in the middle of the
process was not fair at all. We can only commend the Electoral Commission for
this new development which we think will preserve media and individual
journalists' rights,” says Ssempala.
Alex Atuhaire, a member of executive of the Uganda Editors’ Guild, notes the Electoral Commission has taken the right decision. He,
however, notes that the move is not related to their petition filed in court.
Atuhaire says that in court the editors' guild is
challenging the Media Council’s illegal, and irregular registration and
accreditation process which has far-reaching consequences even beyond the
coverage of elections.