State owned media managers face a year in jail or a fine of up to Shs10 million for denying presidential candidates coverage.
In 2016, Dr Kizza Besigye, then Forum for Democratic Change Presidential candidate, paid for a slot on the state-owned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) television, subsequently he was airtime on the station and this forced him to seek redress in court because the programme was never conducted and neither was his money refunded.
Section 7 of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 that was passed yesterday prescribes the punishment. According to the law, An officer responsible for a state owned media house who contravenes subsection(1) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 24 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
MPs also called for similarity in prominence for presidential candidates. On independently sponsored presidential candidates, MPs shot down a proposal to limit such candidates with requirements such as proof of having been discharged by their parties.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ephraim Kamuntu, was left to defend the proposal alone.
“The system of political governance is multiparty; consequently, if you take it together with article 83, you will realise the importance of this provision; this clause is controversial so I beg that you give us time,” said Kamuntu.
The original clause had suggested a minimum period of 12 months within which an individual seeking to run for president as an independent candidate should have relinquished the membership of a registered political party.
MPs rejected the proposal.
MP Jonathan Odur termed the proposal unconstitutional. “What if your political party says he is still ours? Both proposals [from the government and the committee] are unconstitutional and the House should reject them,” he added.
Military and police installations have been barred from hosting polling stations, pursuant to modifications MPs made on clause 10 of the Bill.
The bill opens the door for several amendment of laws touching on elections, popularly dubbed ‘Electoral Reforms’ and includes the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Government Act.
With the nomination dates for presidential and parliamentary elections drawing closer, government has been under pressure to present amendments to the laws relating to elections, especially after defaulting on the Supreme Court recommendations in the Amama Mbabazi Vs Yoweri Museveni & others Presidential election petition No1 of 2016.