Ambassador Pacific and Hon. Nalule at UPPA function on Friday
H.E AMBASSADOR Attilio Pacific, who recently headed the European Union delegation in Uganda that visited opposition National Unity Platform Party Headquaters in Kamwokya and held a meeting with Hon. Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi alongside other top party officials has shocked opposition politicians in Uganda.
On Friday October 30th 2020, he shockingly announced that EU observers will this time stay outside Uganda 2021 General elections, saying they were not officially invited to monitor/observe this very important National process something that has worried opposition fearing that elections may not be free and fair.
Speaking during the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected Uganda Parliamentary Press Association executive at Parliament, Ambassador Pacifici who was a special guest said, “We have not been invited to monitor Uganda’s coming elections. Maybe they will.”
He however said, “As many of you will know, the European Union has a long standing and firm commitment to upholding democratic values, both internally and externally through our foreign policy and longstanding partnership with third world countries.”
On this day, UPPA also organized a public debate to discuss The role of the media in promoting free and fair elections in 2021
The debate featured media scholars, journalists, politicians, Electoral Commission and development partners.
Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament was represented by Hon. Safia Nalule, commissioner, Parliament of Uganda as the Chief Guest.
At this mega function attended by EC Spokesman Paul Bukenya, UPPA President Moses Mulondo who works with The New Vision was sworn in alongside other leaders including; Francis Lubega (Radio Sapentia) – vice president, Apollo Tusiime (Salt Media) – Secretary General, Charles Mugerwa (CBS radio) – Treasurer Damali Mukhaye (Daily Monitor) Organizing Secretary.
Others are; Rose Kasigwa (Radio Paidha) – Secretary for Discipline, Nickson Bbale (Channel 44 tv) – Secretary for Welfare, Joweria Namagembe (Voice of Africa radio) – Secretary for women and Steven Turyarugayo (The New Vision) – Deputy Secretary General.
Naser Kasozi (Homeland Newspaper) is the Online representative, Hanifar Samula (Kingdom tv) represents Tv stations, Paul Kiwuwa (The New Vision) represents Print media while Godfrey Ssali (Radio One/Akaboozi) represents Radio stations.
EU AMBASSADOR’S FULL SPEECH
Ambassador Pacific talked about the EU’s long track record of supporting democratic processes and institutions all around the world, including here in Uganda.
He said, “While there are many important aspects of strengthening democracy such as building cultures of active citizenship, respect and tolerance; ensuring strong and accountable institutions; improving transparency in public life – a key part of strengthening democracy is ensuring respect for the will of the people expressed through transparent, inclusive, credible and violence-free elections.”
Talking about elections, the EU boss said they are an important moment for the development of any democracy.
He said, as standing friends and development partners, “We wish Uganda every success with the forthcoming elections and we are proud to be able to support a number of organizations working to enhance the quality of the electoral process.”
He highlighted that the European Union’s support to elections in Uganda is completely impartial.
As a matter of principle, the EU boss clarified that, “The European Union does not interfere in any country’s electoral process. Our focus is on supporting local actors and strengthening the electoral process to ensure that it is credible, transparent and inclusive as possible.”
“We never have, and never will, support one candidate or party, over another and we fully respect Uganda’s sovereignty and the right of all Ugandans to choose their leaders through elections.” Said Ambassador Pacific.
He noted that, rights may sometimes have to be limited, but such limitations to people’s rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression must always be reasonable, proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.
He said they are all well aware of the special context that Covid-19 pandemic has brought about and of course ensuring the public health of people must be of paramount concern during elections.
“But even then, we must guard against possible overuse of blanket restrictions, or the indescriminate application of rules which target certain candidates or parties.” Said EU boss.
He talked about unequal access to media platforms which he said is an issue for Uganda’s election candidates in the past.
“We realize that this is now even more of an issue in an election where mass rallies are not possible. We welcome the Parliament’s approval earlier this year of changes to section 24 of the Presidential Elections Act which provides for stronger rules designed on state-owned media. This is a step in the right direction and I call for this equal treatment to be extended to parliamentary and local election candidates and for privately owned media platforms to also ensure that their coverage is as equitable as possible.” Said Ambassador Pacific.
The EU delegation is one of the seven funders of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) which supports a range of civil society projects related to elections.
It includes support to domestic election observation by Uganda civil society organizations.
DGF also supports several projects related to media and elections including projects implemented by African Centre for Media Excellence, the Human Rights Network for Journalists and the Uganda Media Women’s Association.
SPEAKER KADAGA’S SPEECH
I would like to appreciate the role of Parliamentary Press linking Parliament to the people by covering the procedures of the House and the committees.
Through you, citizens can appreciate Parliament services to the Nation. Media is a tool through which the Nation is educated, informed and entertained. And whenever society faces challenges like epidemic, terrorism and natural disasters we rely on media to keep us informed.
When Covid-19 forced government to lockdown many activities, journalists and the work they do, was considered essential to the nation.
Uganda is in the middle of campaigns for the 2021 General elections, what is being referred to as the Scientific election.
We expect more electronic and Online communication than physical interactions to avoid spreading Covid-19. The media is expected to play a leading role in sensitising and mobilizing voters.
Elections can be shaped negatively or positively by the actions of the media. The media can promote free and fair elections through civic awareness, publicising electoral laws, exposing electoral malpractices, fast checking political statements and giving analysis to enable voters make informed decisions.
On the other hand, there is also potential for misreporting, blackmail all done by the media.
However, Ugandans expect accuracy, fairness and impartiality from the media when reporting on campaigns, hosting guests or analysing politics.
I appeal to journalists and all media stakeholders to uphold professional ethics during elections season and at all times.
I also, remind media to be balanced and gender sensitive while interviewing and profiling many candidates because this area is still wanting.
Media freedoms are essential to a vibrant media in any democracy. Unfortunately, election campaign tend to increase cases of interferences, threats and rights abuses against the media from various sources. We need to change this trend.
I encourage the media to work closely with the responsible institutions to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings during the election period.
Finally, am aware of the concerns about the delays in constituting the communications tribunal provided for in the UCC article 2013. Parliament will engage the President about this issue and hope the tribunal will be constituted.
PARTERN WITH EC – BUKENYA URGES UPPA
Paul Bukenya said, media needs to partern with Electoral Commission to promote the use of the mixture of approaches that have been proposed in the forthcoming scientific elections.
Other speakers included madam Hellen Kaweesa.