Uganda: Journalists Protest Directive to Register With Media Council

Police arrest Radio One journalist Saif-llah Ashraf Kasirye (left) in Luuka District, Uganda, on November 18. (file photo).
13 December 2020

Media practitioners have protested the directive from the Media Council of Uganda to have all journalists register with the council, saying the move comes at an unfavourable time and on short notice.

According to the Editors' Guild, an association that brings editors together, the requirement to register journalists comes in the middle of the election campaign season, which many journalists are already covering.

According to the guidelines released by the Council on Thursday, all practicing journalists covering election events should hold press tags issued by the Council or they won't be able to cover electoral and other events.

The exercise that starts next week, will run up to December 21.

Mr Paulo Ekochu, the Council chairperson, said in the statement that the move is intended to ensure the industry is well-monitored and free of quacks.

However, the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), says the timing of the latest guidelines on accreditation is not only questionable but also raises suspicion.

"We are afraid the move has the potential of doing exactly the opposite at a time when citizens need access to reliable and timely information in order to make informed political decisions," Mr Peter Mwesige, the ACME executive director, says.

ACME is a Kampala-based independent, non-profit professional organisation that is committed to excellence in journalism and mass communication in Africa.ACME's main goal is to make the media a more effective platform for the provision of information on public affairs, a tool for monitoring official power, and a forum for vibrant public debate.

ACME, through a statement, states that the legality of registration of journalists by the Media Council of Uganda is doubtable as this does not fall in line with the procedures in the law.

"According to the law, the Media Council is supposed to issue practicing certificates to journalists who have presented certificates of enrolment issued by the National Institute of Journalists of Uganda (NIJU)," reads the ACME statement in part.

It further reads: "The Council's job is to enter the enrolled journalists on the "register of journalists of Uganda" after which those who have paid the prescribed fees are issued with practicing licences."

The Editors' Guild has urged Media Council of Uganda to hold more consultations with different stakeholders to ensure the constitutional right of citizens to receive and disseminate information is not unduly harmed by these regulations.

"In addition, we note that while the current law, which is more than two decades old, provides for registration of journalists, it might have been overtaken by developments on the ground, including the emergence of social media, citizen journalism and user-generated content," reads an Editors' Guild statement in part.

Editors' Guild has reached out to the Media Council for a meeting together with other stakeholders to discuss the regulations.

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