High Court quashes Media Council of Uganda’s directive to register journalists

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Kampala, 19th/January/2021; The High Court of Uganda at Kampala quashed the directives of the Media Council of Uganda to have all journalists accredited to be allowed to cover the 2021 elections and other State events. This was after the Editors’ Guild of Uganda and Centre for Public Interest Law dragged the Media Council of Uganda to court challenging the 7-day ultimatum directive.

In her ruling delivered by mail on 18th January 2021, High Court Judge Esta Nambayo saidan order of certiorari is hereby issued quashing the directives of the media council of Uganda issued in the press statements made on the 10th and 20th December 2020 directing journalists to register and be accredited in order to cover the 2021 general elections and other state events for being illegal (ultra vires) and irrational.”

She added that the registration and accreditation of journalists by the Media Council of Uganda is illegal, irrational and procedurally irregular without an operational National Institute of Journalists of Uganda (NIJU) to enroll journalists in accordance with the Press and Journalists Act.

She further issued a permanent injunction restraining security agencies from implementing the illegal and irrational directives of the Media Council of Uganda restraining journalists from covering the 2021 General Election and other state events. Court also observed that its illegal for this media regulator to operate without having NIJU in place.

This means that journalists can now freely cover the 2021 general elections as well as other state events without accreditation from the Media Council of Uganda.

The Editors’ Guild urged the media to stand up against any illegal directives issued through the government media regulatory bodies. “This ruling means that the media can’t be subjected to illegalities. We should resist the use of government institutions to be suppressed as the media.” The Secretary to the Editors’ Guild of Uganda, Ms. Sylvia Nankya told HRNJ-Uganda shortly after the ruling.

It is important to note that Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda and two others as well challenged the said directives in the Constitutional Court. However, it has been hard to constitute a panel of three justices to hear the application. The case was filed after Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, East African Media Institute and Centre for Public Interest Law challenged several provisions of the Press and Journalists Act that was invoked by the Media Council of Uganda in the Constitutional Court in 2014 for being unconstitutional.

“We are very grateful to the Editors’ Guild and CEPIL, together with other actors for standing firm in this fight for a free press. We thank the court for delivering a timely decision in this matter and appeal to the judiciary to exercise its custodial role in upholding and promoting press freedom and human rights by expeditiously handling other matters before it. The journalists can now feel some relief.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director, Robert Ssempala

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