The Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana has cautioned members of the media to exercise maximum sensitivity in reporting on election matters as the country heads for 2021 general elections.
Speaking at National Consultative Forum and United Nations Development Program Media Training Workshop in Entebbe today, Rukutana challenged media to report professionally in order not to spark conflict among the electorate though the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and expression which includes freedom of press and media.
He accused some members of the media he didn’t mention of being partisan while reporting matters of elections.
Although, the Constitution under Article 43 provides for inherent freedoms and rights which are not granted by anyone, the deputy attorney general said some members of the fourth estate and general public have gone beyond these rights to jeopardize rights of others.
“In exercising your rights, don’t prejudice fundamental rights of others. Everyone has a right to assemble, speak, and demonstrate. But if you demonstrate and you begin assaulting people, abusing others then you are exercising your rights in a prejudicial way.”
“We are not stopping you to exercise your rights but we are creating a conducive environment for you not to sabotage the rights of other people,” he said.
He added that there must be a regulation so that as people exercise their rights, they don’t jeopardize the rights of others.
He accused media of taking sides while reporting especially on electoral matters.
“Media should be like a camera. A camera takes exactly what it sees. Media should report matters as they see them.
“The role of media has changed. You are now involved in what is called advocative journalism which means that you take a particular stand. Your reporting is tilted to a particular stand. You don’t like NRM government so whatever you report is painting a bad picture to the government,” he noted.
Rukutana further said that media should report stories accurately and should be impartial.
Asked to make a comment on why the communications regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has many times issued warning letters to various media houses over “bleaching minimum broadcasting standards,” Rukutana said UCC does not execute its duties without following the law.
He advised that affected media houses and persons should always run to court whenever there are grievances.
“UCC is a regulator of media, however being a regulator, they don’t regulate using their own wings. Whenever they engage you, it should be an effort to enforce a particular regulation in their view you have bleached. Should they go above the regulation, our system is clear; you can seek redress in courts of law.”
He however added that there are circumstances that society and good sense would not allow to be published as they are.
“You should use your discretion to know what material could be harmful to the country or peace and security.”
Meanwhile, Mr Leonard Mulekwah, the Director of Operations at Electoral Commission said that elections and media are inseparable and called for two parties to work together.
He attributed various factors to conflicts in elections which included political betting, human error and fraud, improper counting of votes, prevention of voters from voting especially when one does not have necessary requirements among others.
He highlighted different forms of election violence which included violation of electoral guidelines, unauthorized carrying of firearms, vote buying, conspiracy to bribe, threats or attacks on competitors etc.
Mulekwah however called on all parties to always ensure they deploy agents at all polling stations to mitigate the above challenges.
He added that the Electoral Commission embarked on creating a reliable database of voters hence, the ongoing voter verification exercise.