Introduction

This Application sought to quash and challenge the legality of the directives to register and accredit journalists to cover the 2021 general elections and other State events by the Media Council of Uganda.

Background

The applicants (Editor’s Guild Uganda & Centre for Public Interest Law) challenged the legality of the directives to register and accredit journalists to cover the 2021 general elections and other State events by the Media Council of Uganda. On 10th and 20th December 2020, the Media Council of Uganda issued press statements with directives on “Guidelines for Media Council of Uganda Accreditation of Journalists for Coverage of 2021 Election and Other State Events”. The statements among others provide for the registration and accreditation of all journalists in Uganda (local and foreign) by Media Council of Uganda to cover the forthcoming 2021 general elections. The statements further provided that no journalist would be allowed to cover any elections and State events without a press tag issued by the Council. On December 30th 2020, the Deputy Inspect General of Police issued a press statement that reiterates the position to block journalists from covering political campaigns and other electoral events without the Media Council’s accreditation.

Judgement was delivered in favour of Editor’s Guild Uganda & CEPIL against the AG on January 18th, 2021 by Lady Justice Esta Nambayo. The court reversed the directive of the Media Council of Uganda stated that there is no enrolment of members to the institute under S. 16(1) of the Act and therefore, the Certificate of enrolment cannot be issued under S. 16(2). If the Certificate of enrolment cannot be issued, then registration of journalists under S. 26 of the Act is not achievable and therefore, a practising certificate cannot be issued as provided for under S. 27 of the Act by the Council. The court further stated that the registration or issuance of Certificate by the Media Council without following the legally provided procedure was illegality, and it would amount to a procedural irregularity. Therefore, the court held it was illegal and irregular for the Media Council to embark on registering and accrediting journalists (both local and international) to participate in the 2021 general elections.