Information minister Mary Karooro Okurut

The document bars access to or release of any information to the media regarding contents of Cabinet minutes, security and intelligence agencies, defence, international relations and sensitive ongoing court cases that government considers a threat to security.

The approval comes just weeks after government tabled a new Bill to regulate broadcasting, telecommunication and postal service providers through a new body-the Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority.

The Bill seeks to empower government to control operations of broadcasters and reintroduce the law on false news, struck out by the Supreme Court.

Government also, four years ago, started the process to amend media laws; Uganda’s Press and Journalist Act – January 29, 2010, the Press and Journalist Act, 2000, to require the licensing of newspapers.

This also comes at a time when government has hired an Irish public relations firm at Shs2b to clean police image and work with the government media centre to clean up its international tainted image.

Media organisations and rights activists have condemned the new changes, saying it would severely limit media freedoms.

However, Information and national guidance minister Mary Karooro Okurut said “there is need to clarify and crosscheck facts before publishing a story.”

She said media houses often carry articles with misleading facts hence the “need to have an overall government spokesperson responsible for information outflow.”

Access, litigation
Ms Okurut said the presence of a communication personnel will reduce delays in accessing information, release timely information to media houses and journalists and create avenues for a more accessible and interactive government for interviews, talk-shows and other programmes.

The Director of Information at the Ministry of Information, Mr Simon Mayende, said the public and the media, who will not be satisfied with a given information can seek litigation, the restrictions on sensitive information notwithstanding.

By Richard Wanambwa, Daily Monitor

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