DEMOCRACY: Freedom Of Expression, Access To Information A Prerequisite For Free And Fair Elections

Participants attending the three-day training organised by AFIC pose for a photo at Skyz View Hotel in Kampala


KAMPALA, Uganda [SHIFTMEDIA] There is little observance of international human rights law regarding Freedom of Expression and Access to Information during the election cycle in Uganda, stakeholders have observed.

The Uganda Electoral Commission, that is supposed to organise and conduct regular and free and fair elections came under immense attack for not taking charge effectively when it comes to elections.

Makerere University don Dr Adolf Mbaine observed that the Electoral Commission watches as scores of security personal especially from the army torment and harass candidates and voters, especially those in the opposition.4

Mbaine was speaking at the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), and UNESCO organised training on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information for promotion of Free and Fair Elections in Uganda.

Adolf Mbaine makes a presentation

The three-day training workshop at Skyz Hotel in Naguru is geared towards strengthening the capacities of electoral stakeholders such as the Electoral Commission, Judiciary, Police and Media on international standards on freedom of expression and access to information for promotion of free and fair elections.

Dr Mbaine a renowned Mass Communication don presented a paper: International Human Rights Law Framework in the era of social media and artificial intelligence. “During elections time the media are harassed, warned against announcing election results and tallying, internet is shut down. What are you fearing if your system is transparent? if people are tallying, they are not going to announce the winner, why fear? asked Mbaine.

He had no kind words for the EC for looking on when security gets its hands on innocent voters and candidates during elections. He outlined laws such as the Press and Jounalist Statute Act 2000, The Penal Code Act (41, 53, 179). the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002, the Public Order Management Act and the Computer Mis-us Act 2011 as amended as laws that inhibit free speech and expression in Uganda.

He queried why there are low voter turnout during the elections, and what the electoral commission was doing regarding this anomaly.

Dr Rose Namusoga a lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University noted that regulating media goes hand in hand with regulating of social media. “We have observed a lot of misinformation, Mal information and disinformation during election time. Voters can’t access their names on the register, candidates are declared out of the race, but the Electoral Commission doesn’t come out fast to clear the air,” said Namusoga. She said with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) elections in future will be marred with more fake news, something, that she said needs immediate intervention.

Dr Rose Namusoga

“The emergence of AI will lead to widespread voter suppression, spreading of fake news, during election period to tarnish specific candidates, voters, and political parties,’ said Namusoga. She said new technology facilitates easy content creation and distribution of misleading news. Namusoga highlighted influencers, news organisations, conspiracy theorists, and violent extremists as some of the drivers of mis and disinformation.

AFIC Executive Director Gilbert Sendugwa

Gilbert Sendugwa the Executive Director Africa Freedom of Information Centre urged the Electoral Commission to always come out early to clear allegations regarding voter intimidation and bribery. “When the public has a specific submission about you, it is your duty to clear the allegations,” said Sendugwa.

The Electoral Commission officials saying low voter turn out in Uganda is due to the perception that Ugandans have regarding predetermined winners of elections.

Shift Media News

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