Media Council of Uganda issues ultimatum to journalists to register ahead of 2021 polls

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Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Media Council of Uganda, the body in charge of regulating the media has given all practicing journalists a seven-day ultimatum to register or risk being denied access to cover the 2021 elections and other public functions.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday 10th, at the Ministry of ICT in Kampala, the chairperson of the Media Council of Uganda, Paulo Ekochu said that all media houses both local and international including freelance journalists who fail to register, criminal charges will be opened up against them.

He added that all cards currently issued to journalists have also been recalled so that they are issued with new ones with security features that make it hard to forge.

He however said that those who are already issued with cards will not be required to pay afresh. Ekochu said that they have received complaints from journalists about harassment by security forces while they are carrying out their work.

He said as a council that regulates the media, they are incapable of doing anything because they don’t know who is a journalist and who is not because of a lack of accreditation.

He denied accusations that they are doing this to get rid of critical journalists both local and international, arguing that their actions are backed up by the Press and Journalists Act of 1995.

Last month, three Canadian journalists working with CBC News who had come to cover elections were deported from Uganda under unclear circumstances. Those deported include; Margret Evans, Lily Martin and Jean-Francois Bisson. Their station claimed that they had met all the requirements for foreign journalists reporting in Uganda.

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Ekochu said their measure is not in any way meant to close out some journalists as many other foreign journalists have been given access to the country. Asked how many journalists the country has, Ekochu said they will only know the number after registration.

“We haven’t got the number yet but we are going to register you and know how many practicing journalists we have got. Many went to journalism schools but never practiced,” he said.

For a long time, journalists have resisted provisions of the Press and Journalist’s Act that calls for registration. They argue that the government only wants to use it to cripple rather than regulate the media.