The Electoral Commission and the Uganda Communication Commission have been criticised for looking on as media and people’s freedoms are trampled upon, in the run up to the 2021 general election.
Lawyers and members of the civil society made the wake-up call on UCC and EC during a public dialogue on freedom of assembly, expression and media freedom organized by the American Bar Association in Kampala on Thursday.
During the dialogue, Lawyer Daniel Walyemera trashed UCC’s regulations and minimum broadcasting standards as a vague document used to violate media freedom.
Another lawyer, George Musisi of Pace Advocates described UCC ‘s role in elections as a ritual that fails to consider the changing dynamics in every election, and asked UCC to prove whether it has a tribunal that hears and issues free and fair verdicts on whoever is accused of violating its regulations, without which Ugandans will continue seeing the commission as a tool for dictatorship.
Uganda Human Rights Commission, a public body, reported receiving many complaints by Ugandans whose rights have been abused by the use of the internet, wondering whether UCC and EC are doing anything to solve the problem.
Political organizations used the dialogue to question the EC and UCC’s objectivity and fairness. Harris Akampurira, the head of elections management in the National Unity Platform-NUP in charge of western region tasked UCC and EC to explain if they have taken any action against media houses blocking opposition politicians from accessing their services.
UCC’s lawyer Abdul Sallam Waiswa was on hand to defend the regulator’s actions on broadcasting and telecommunication work in the country Commissioner Steven Tashobya represented the EC. Waiswa shifted the blame to Parliament, saying that as UCC, they are just enforcing regulations as per their Act and if anyone feels discontented, they should task the lawmakers to make changes.
Commissioner Tashobya also defended EC saying that all they are doing everything possible to ensure that media houses don’t discriminate opposition politicians while providing space for campaigning. He, however, insisted there won’t be any relaxing on enforcing the covid-19 regulations saying that they won’t risk people’s lives just for the sake of providing space for freedom of assembly.