Foreign journalists in Uganda struggle to get accredited to cover elections

Foreign journalists in Uganda
Foreign journalists face obstacles in getting accreditation in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Foreign journalists working in Uganda are struggling to get accreditation to cover next week’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Speaking to this publication, several journalists who asked for anonymity not to jeopardize their chances of being accredited said that they have been disappointed by the number of government agencies handling the process.

“They keep on tossing us up asking one thing after another. I think they just simply don’t want us to cover this election,” said one journalist who has spent two weeks chasing her accreditation.

“We are trying all avenues to get accredited but the red tape seems to not to be ending. I hope they reconsider and give us those cards before the end of the week,” said another frustrated journalist.

According to new rules by the Media Council of Uganda, the body that accredits both foreign and local journalists, for one to qualify to be accredited to report from Uganda, he/she must first produce a letter of good conduct issued by the International Police [Interpol].

If satisfied, then the Media Council issues them with an accreditation card which then is presented to the Immigration department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which then gives them special passes and visas that allow them to cover elections.

Kyetume Kasanga, the assistant commissioner monitoring and Public Relations at the Ministry of ICT, who is also the secretary of the Media Council admitted that many journalists have had problems having their applications accepted. He said at least 36 journalists have had challenges in securing the letters of good conduct from Interpol.

“Many have said that they don’t have Interpol in their countries. But we have given them another option of obtaining these letters from the ministries in charge of the police in their countries.

However, in addition to these letters, they should also have recommendations from ambassadors of their countries to Uganda or those countries that take Uganda for those without embassies here,” Kyetume said. He however said that the Media Council has already accredited almost 100 foreign journalists.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Justice Byabakama Simon Mugenyi, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission said they have no intention of stopping any journalist from covering elections.

Paul Bukenya, the Electoral Commission spokesperson said that they are accrediting only persons who have fulfilled the regulatory obligations.

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“They must show that they have accredited media houses and also show that they are practicing according to the laws of Uganda,” Bukenya said.

Several media rights organizations have petitioned courts to try and stop the recent directive by the Media Council to have both local and foreign journalists accredited.

They contend that the Media Council that is not fully constituted cannot enforce rules that are provided for in the Press and Journalists Act, a 1995 law that established it.