The chairperson of Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Ms Mariam Wangadya, has tasked government officials to desist from denying journalists information.
Ms Wangadya made the remarks yesterday at Makerere University in Kampala during the commemoration of the International Day of Universal Access to Information.
“At the commencement of occupying any public office, one has to take the oath of secrecy, and I for one has taken the oath several times but public officials unduly hide behind the official Secrets Act and oath of secrecy to deny the media and public information which is necessary for them to make important decisions,’’ Ms Wangadya said.
Ms Wangadya asked the government to revisit the laws that impede the enjoyment of the right to access to information.
“I have observed over time that when information lawsuits are filed against media houses, the damages awarded to the plaintiffs are getting higher and higher and with time, this may have the unfortunate effect of silencing the media,” she said.
Ms Josephine Kalege Kusemererwa, the executive secretary of Uganda Local Governments Association, said local governments use information in planning, budgeting, and informing the public on government programmes such as immunisation.
“People are not aware that they have a right to access to information, and the procedure they can use to get the information,” Ms Kusemererwa said.
Ms Marie Nanyanzi, the senior programme officer of Twaweza, an organisation that works on enabling children to learn, said: “Governments should enhance access to information by ensuring that the channels through which this information is accessed are affordable, there is equality in accessing information and the channels should be easily accessible.”