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Experts caution govt against bad media laws

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By MERCY NALUGO

Posted  Tuesday, March 25  2014 at  02:00
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Media practitioners yesterday warned government against introducing laws and regulations that breach constitutional freedoms.

The practitioners were reacting to reports that the Minister of Information, Ms Rose Namayanja, had through statutory order number 4 issued new laws and regulations for journalists. The laws under the Press and Journalists (fees) Regulations, 2014, introduce new fees for journalists.

Dr Peter Mwesige, the executive director at the African Centre for Media Excellence, questioned the legitimacy of the new regulations which government is moving. He said the charges appear to violate right to freedoms of speech, expression, the press and other media freedoms as spelt out under Article 29 of the Constitution.

“If we turn our attention to the numbers we are missing the point. The picture is on the law itself. Is it a legitimate law?” “The Centre for Public Interest Law in cooperation with Human Rights Network for Journalists and the Eastern Africa Media Institute filed a constitutional petition challenging major sections of the law,” he said.

Early this month, the Centre for Public Interest Law, together with the Human Rights Network for Journalists and the Eastern Africa Media Institute filed a constitutional petition challenging sections of the Ugandan Press and Journalists Act.

Under the new law. journalists shall be required to pay Shs200,000 to obtain a practising certificate, Shs100,000 for annual renewal of registration and Shs30,000 for issuance of a certificate of enrolment, among other charges. Mr Haruna Kanabi of the Independent Media Council criticised the manner in which media fees shall be collected.

“It is the National Institute of the Journalists of Uganda (NIJU) which is supposed to offer enrolment certificate after which the Media Council issues a practicing license. As far as I know, NIJU is not in operation and whatever they want to do is illegal,” he said.
Sections 28 and 29 restrict the right of a person to practice journalism unless that person has enrolled, acquired an accreditation card, and complied with all the terms of the Media Council and other orders under the Act.

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Some of the proposed fees to be paid

Particulars ------------------------------------------------ Fees (Shs & dollars)
Registration of editors -------------------------------------------- 10,000
Change of editor’s particulars ------------------------------------ 5,000
Application for enrollment ------------------------------------ 5,000
Certificate of enrollment ------------------------------------- 30,000
Registration certificate ------------------------------------ 50,000
Issuance of certificate ----------------------------------- 200,000
Renewal of certificate ------------------------------------------- 100,000
Accreditation [foreign journalists] -------------------------- $25
Issuing accreditation certificate for foreign journalists ---- $300
Foreign journalists [2 years accreditation] ------------------- $200
Filing fee on lodging a complaint --------------------------- 10,000
Response to complaint by respondent --------------------------- 2,000
Ruling/order by committee -------------------------------- 10,000