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Gov’t Urged To Ensure Full Access To Information Ahead Of 2021 Scientific Elections

Sendugwa (C) and Sempala (L) addressing the press

In a bid to be increase voter turn up and enhance public trust in electoral processes during and after the 2021 general elections, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have urged government to ensure full access to Information for the electorate to make  informed decisions while voting.

During a joint press conference organized by Transparency International, Human Rights Networks for Journalists and Africa Freedom of Information centre among others at Fairway Hotel in Kampala on Monday, Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, said that the recently released revised electoral roadmap has not highlighted issues relating to information access. He noted that information including structures, functions, decisions, expenditure related to the voting process should be disclosed by all relevant agencies without exceptions.

“Access to election related information is critical to the integrity of electoral process in the democratic world. For elections to be fair and credible during and after elections, the electorate must have access to Information at all stages. We are concerned that the current roadmap lacked adequate consultation with civil society, political parties and the media,” Sendugwa said.

He added that in order to set the ground for dialogue between government and the public, Civil Society Organisations have embarked on a strategy to ensure transparency and accountability on the revised road map by Electoral Commisssion where he called upon government to ensure access to information to be made simple, quick and affordable.

Robert Sempala, the Executive Director of Human Rights Network for Journalists said in order to enable full participation of the electorate in the electoral process, there is need to allow the media to play their role without being controlled.

He added that being a scientific nature of elections, and based on the media platforms, governments should consider waving certain taxes like over the top levy (OTT).

“Media as sole vehicle for campaigns, agencies should allow media to perform their work professionally without being coerced, defamations, and vandalism. Government should consider tax subsidies and training for media practitioners on how to handle scientific elections,” Sempala said.

While releasing the revised electoral road map  recently, Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, the EC Chairperson said that open-air campaigns in the run-up to the 2021 general elections will not be allowed.

He said that in order to comply with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to limit the spread of coronavirus, candidates will use platforms like TVs, radios, and other digital systems to woo voters.

By Drake Nyamugabwa

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