Journalists yesterday petitioned the High Court in Kampala, seeking interim orders stopping the Media Council from effecting its guidelines of having all journalists who intend to cover elections to be accredited.
The journalists under the Editors Guild Uganda alongside the Centre for Public Interest Law, contend that the directive issued by the Media Council, if unchallenged, will open a floodgate of brutality against them by security personnel during enforcement.
“The impugned directives will have the effect of fuelling the brutality of the security forces and malicious prosecution against journalists of enforcing and implementing the impugned directives, further curtailing and unreasonably restricting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights,” the journalists say.
They are against the mandatory accreditation to cover elections and other state functions on ground that the press plays a fundamental role in dissemination of information, especially in these scientific elections.
On December 10, the Media Council, a government body that regulates the conduct and promotion of good ethical standards and discipline of journalists, released a press statement demanding that for any journalist either local or foreign to cover the forthcoming General Election, they must have been accredited.
Further in its communication, the Media Council said it had since embarked on registering reporters and editorial staff of various media houses in a bid to ensure the industry is well-monitored and sanitised from quacks.
The media regulatory body also reasoned that the accreditation of journalists is for their own safety.
“Recent events of elections coverage have shown that reporters/media practitioners are exposed to a lot of dangers from all sides of [the divide] divide. In light of the aforesaid, the Media Council has engaged security agencies to find a solution to enable free movement and access by media practitioners to important events in particular during this election period without undue harassment,” the Media Council stated.
Mr Daniel Kalinaki, the General Manager Editorial at Nation Media Group-Uganda, who is also the interim chairperson of the Editors Guild, said the directive to register all journalists before they are permitted to cover any election and other state events barely a month to the 2021 polls, is irrational.
“The impugned directions to register, accredit and license journalists to cover specific events (elections and state events) and criminalising the free sharing of information on matters of public interest such as elections and state events, unreasonably and unjustifiably restricts and curtails the right to practise journalism as a profession,” Mr Kalinaki said.
He also states in his affidavit that as a media manager, he knows that journalists have a responsibility and mandate to cover election activities in all the constituencies across the country and that they are to that effect mandated to send out journalists to gather information regarding the electoral process for publication.
Mr Kalinaki also said the Media Council lacks quorum as it is not fully constituted.
Through their lawyers of ALP Advocates, the journalists want court to issue an interim order stopping the enforcement of the questioned guidelines by the Media Council until determination of the temporary injunction.