As Ugandans eagerly wait for the 2021 general elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) plans to equip more journalists with reporting skills to contribute to a free and fair process. Journalists have for long, expressed disappointment regarding the brutal manner in which security agencies handle them during elections.
During the 2018 Arua Municipality parliamentary by-elections, a number of journalists were battered, their equipment confiscated and some arrested and detained for days without prosecution.
However, Electoral Commission commissioner Stephen Tashobya, who represented the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, at a gathering organized to discuss how the two sides can work together, said they would conduct workshops for journalists. He said the workshops will equip journalists with electoral knowledge and improve on the quality of reporting on electoral processes.
Tashobya made the remarks during a dialogue organized by the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) on Thursday at Hotel Africana Kampala ahead of last Friday’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations. He said the training will enable journalists and EC to address issues of concern to both parties and improve their working relationships.
To ensure safety of journalists and ethical conduct during the electoral process, Tashobya said the EC had taken up many initiatives, including training of election officials in basic media and public relations skills to support journalists.
The EC promised to accredit media as election observers by providing journalists with written clearance and identification tags. He also emphasized training of security officers regarding the rights and duties of stakeholders.
Tashobya said the EC considers the media as a key strategic partner in the electoral process because it plays a critical role of informing and educating the electorate.
Charity Ahimbisbwe, the senior communications and advocacy manager at Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy, said journalists work in a hostile environment, which forces them to seek safe reporting and forego elections.
The executive director of the Human Rights Network for Journalists, Robert Ssempala, said the level of engagement between journalists and the EC is still limited. He asked the EC to advise the Government on the heavy deployment of army and the Police, saying it intimidates journalists and voters.
The EC spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa, asked journalists to know their responsibilities as they emphasize their rights