Uganda’s general election season is well and truly underway. Party nominations for local government, parliamentary and presidential seats are ongoing. Social media is flooded with candidates’ posters, campaign promises and draft manifestos.
Journalists, many who are working in newsrooms crippled by the economic impact of Covid-19, are doing their best to keep on top of a fluid situation, and many are doing a good job in informing citizens of the news of the day. There is, however, a real danger that important issues may be ignored or downplayed by the media because all eyes are on the big-ticket issues in the 2021 general election.
Good election reporting goes past coverage of conflict, party politics and candidates. It illuminates, analyses and investigates the building blocks of the country’s electoral processes. It exposes the strength or weakness of the very system upon which our democracy is built.
ACME’s revised Guidelines for Media Coverage of Elections in Uganda contains some suggestions of questions that journalists can ask to help them develop stories on under-reported, but crucial issues in elections. In this article, we highlight one of the areas that are ripe for reporting: voters rights.
- How have voting and voter laws changed? What is the immediate and future effect of these changes?
- Are all eligible voters on the voters’ list?
- Who may have been excluded from the register and why? What is being done to correct this? Who stands to win or lose from the exclusion of particular voting groups?
- What attempts have been made to include historically disenfranchised groups in the voting process?
- Was there any interference in the voter registration process?
- Do all eligible and registered voters have access to the updated voting register?
- Who is conducting voter education? What is the nature of the voter education? Where is it taking place?
- Do voters know the positions to which candidates will be elected and what powers and responsibilities those elected enjoy?
- Are all voters free to hear and discuss the parties and issues without fear?
- Are parties, candidates, state or non-state actors bribing voters with money, gifts or promises of jobs?
- Do voters understand their role and the importance of voting, and do they know their choices?
- Do minority groups feel safe in voting? Are aggrieved voters aware of where to go for redress?
- In the context of media-only (digital) campaigning for the 2021 elections, are the telecoms protecting citizens’ data? What protections are in place to prevent the sale of personal data to political parties and candidates? Who is in control of this process and how effectively are they doing their job?