The five Bills that government proposed more than seven months ago as part of the electoral reforms, have finally been debated and passed in the last two weeks by Parliament with a number of changes ahead that will likely determine the 2021 General Election.
As part of the proposals, electoral commission had presented to the legal and parliamentary affairs committee that some groups of special interest should be allowed to vote early. Electoral Commission mentioned police, the army, presiding officers. But one group should be added to that list. Journalists.
A journalist like any other citizen, has a right to vote. There have been complaints of the disenfranchisement of teenagers who made 18 last year in December, but there’s a bigger disenfranchisement. This is what I am talking about. Journalists have a right to vote, but they will not have a chance to vote.
We might have to first agree on the essentiality of the role of journalists.
Electoral journalism as a subgenre of political journalism helps society inform and analyze developments related to the election and political campaigns. This journalism holds different stakeholders in the electoral process accountable.
Because of our job, being a highly sensitive job such the Police officers, the army and presiding officers, we will miss out on the voting because we will be up and about giving updates on the election in areas where your eyes won’t be able to reach.
This is why I am suggesting that now that the president has not assented to the amendments, there’s still a chance to cater for journalists as a highly sensitive profession.
I agree with Crispin Kaheru, former coordinator for the citizen’s coalitions for electoral democracy Uganda; that having journalists vote a day or days before the general elections improves credibility of the elections and show the world how we are organized and set examples in the continent, like South Africa has done. If the process is done that way and measures are put in place, it helps build transparency and trust.
And that’s my parting shot this week.
About the author: Canary Mugume is a senior investigative journalist and political reporter at NBS television.