Media Freedoms Project; Enhancing Democratic space for the media industry in Uganda
This project is aimed at achieving a free press and an independent and responsible media in Uganda. The media is a powerful tool in shaping and directing the minds of citizens of any nation. Over the years, we noted with concern incidences where the media was gagged by Government entities through acts such as, shutting down of media houses, closing of radio stations, restrictive directives issued by the Uganda Communication Commission and brutalizing of journalists reporting certain stories. Additionally within the media there is low quality of news reporting by the journalists. All these factors point to a weak institution whose rights are being suppressed. Key interventions under this project has been the institution of Public Interest Cases challenging provisions under certain Acts and requiring interpretation of certain provisions within the Acts.
This case seeks to assert the right to access to information. Oil Agreements were made between the Government and certain investors and the details of these agreements were never made public. A petition was filed to allow citizens access to information in the agreements that were executed by the Government on their behalf.
This case was filed to seeking an interpretation on the broad powers granted to the minister under the Press and Journalists Act that allows him/her to make any laws to govern the workings of the journalists. These broad powers unfettered powers create room for abuse of office. The right to freedom of expression is therefore curtailed.
In this case, the court was petitioned to allow the Plaintiff access to information regarding the persons who had been allowed by the defendant, a government body to settle in a wetland and what criteria was used to allow these settlements. This case seeks to assert the right to information to ensure that the process followed by Government are always in the best interests of the citizens.
In this case we seek to assert the right of access to information by the general public. The Plaintiff requested for a list of members who were admitted to Makerere University on statehouse sponsorship and what criteria was used to award these scholarships. This information should be readily available to public to show the transparency in the section criteria.
The Uganda Communications Act gives broad powers to the Commission to license media houses without stating the minimum requirements and also allows the minister to give directives as he/she deems fit to the media houses. This case therefore Challenges the constitutionality of the Acts it restricts the right to freedom of expression.
This case challenges the old repugnant law on criminal defamation which restricts the right to freedom of expression. This offence has been repealed in certain jurisdictions and we have engaged the court to endure that it is also repealed in East Africa as a whole. (v) CEPIL V AG , Constitutional Petition No, 40 of 2015 ( Sub judice Petition). This case challenges the sub-judice rule which prevents the citizens from enjoying their right to access to information at that material time. We seek orders from court to pronounce this rule as unconstitutional One of our success stories under this project is the case of Mulindwa Mukasa Vs Julius Caesar Tusingwire High Court Miscellaneous Cause No. 58/2014 where the Plaintiff a journalist who was brutalized by police officers under the command of the defendant was sued in his personal capacity for acts committed in his line of duty. The parties settled the matter out of court where the defendant admitted liability apologized and compensated the plaintiff for injuries suffered. This case sends a strong message about personal liability and prevents any future acts of the police in brutalizing journalists. Additionally we have engaged in dialogues aimed at increasing the awareness on the meaning of freedom of expression