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“HRNJ has challenged the ‘Press and Journalists Act’ in the constitutional court and therefore, any matter arising can’t go on until the case is heard and finalised,” said Anite while cooling the fears expressed by journalists towards the registration process at Hotel Triangle in Kampala.
“Unless the petition is heard, there will be no registration of journalists and you should not be intimidated with the deadlines set,” Anite added.
Journalists are required by government under the new regulations to register with the Media Council within four months with the requirement of Shs 200, 000.
Anite noted that according to the Act which is still under question in the Constitutional Court, the registration exercise of any journalist is supposed to begin from the National Institute of Journalists in Uganda (NIJU) and later on proceed to register with the Media Council.
“It is so funny that NIJU is not in existence and the composition of the Media Council is also still under question; the council up to date has got no committee and therefore, no lawful exercise can be conducted.”
She added that the existing law is impractical and those behind it are acting ignorantly, urging all journalists to read and understand the act so as to launch a good resistance against the whole exercise.
On the same note, HRNJ National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala, said the spirit of the registration exercise is intended to crack down all critical journalists.
“The exercise in not aimed at getting rid of masqueraders since most of them are spies and police officers but only aimed at muzzling critical journalists by not renewing their license at the end of the day.”
He said it was an “unfair act of government arm-twisting of media houses”.
Condemns Free prime time for government programmes
Ssempala condemned the proposal by the Parliament Chief Whip that all media houses should allocate free prime time for government programmes.
“This proposal of offering free prime time to state functionaries to popularise government programmes and labelling journalists partisan have a negative impact on freedom of expression and the media.”
Sempala says that the debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and widely open because freedom of press is fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for bringing about of political and social changes desired by the public.
“Despite the fact that the media plays a fundamental role in preserving a free and open society through dissemination of information that encourages debate and contributes to good governance in Uganda, the government continues to restrict free flow of information by intimidating journalists.”
“Why have they continuously blocked journalists from disseminating progressive information?”
1) Police should desist from interfering with media work under the guise of “Orders from above”.
2) Uganda communications Commission and the Media Council should stop issuing unwarranted instructions to Media Houses.
3) The ministry of Information and National Guidance should withdraw its irregular orders to broadcasters seeking for free airtime to popularise government programmes.
4) Journalists and Media practitioners should stand firm and fight for media space, freedom of expression and free speech.
Conclusively, he advised government to “first check on the behaviour of its officials before they think of wasting prime productive time of the stations on their gambling officers”.