By David Vosh Ajuna
Police have announced that non-accredited journalists covering electoral activities will be barred. According to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Paul Lokech, the entity will effective December 31 enforce guidelines of the Uganda Media Council. “The accreditation process that has been open to all media practitioners expires December 31 as we had indicated in our communication of December 14,” Mr Lokech warned. He also used the Wednesday statement to assert that the move “will help security forces distinguish journalists who are compliant from those who are holding out.”Mr Lokech says the Media Council has already availed a list of accredited journalists with valid badges that shall operate as a working tool for genuine journalists. The proposed legislation was widely contested by journalists through the Uganda Editor’s Guild, an association that binds editors in the country. They argued challenging the timing of the legislation which they say came midway the electoral season denying journalists ample time to fulfil accreditation demands. The legislation also quickly raised concerns amongst civil society groups with most saying it aimed at curtailing media freedoms. Advertisement
“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 African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), executive director told Daily Monitor in a December interview. The legislation among other things implies that media practitioners must at all times visibly wear personalized and non-transferrable badges while covering electoral events. The move by Police comes as Uganda’s electoral season peaks, with just less than 15 days, for voters to go to the polls starting January 14, 2021. ‘Ray of hope’The Deputy IGP also said, in trying to assure journalists that, “This arrangement will help us accord journalists better protection over the remaining electoral process.” Mr Lokech further added, “All journalists subjected to any form of physical abuse and other forms of harassment in the course of their duties are reminded to report their cases to the Media Crimes Department at CID headquarters.” His remarks expressing Police’s intent to protect journalists come in the wake of recent days that have seen escalated cases of journalists falling prey to security forces’ brutality.