Covering candidates and political parties: Key issues journalists must pay attention to 

Uganda’s 2021 general election campaign season is gaining momentum. The National Resistance Movement (NRM), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and other parties have already completed their primary elections for members of parliament, LC5 chairpersons and mayors. 

These elections have not ended well for some incumbents and ministers, and in some areas were characterised by violence. For journalists, there has been a lot to keep track of and cover. The downside to this is that some important issues may be ignored or downplayed. 

Good election reporting goes past coverage of conflict and party politics. It illuminates, analyses and investigates the building blocks of the country’s electoral processes. It also exposes the strengths or weaknesses of the system upon which our democracy is built.

ACME’s revised Guidelines for Media Coverage of Elections in Uganda contain some suggestions of questions that journalists can ask to help them develop stories on under-reported yet crucial issues. In this article, we highlight one of the areas of focus: candidates and party rights.

  • Are all qualified parties and candidates allowed to run in the election?
  • Are candidates representing minorities, regions and different political opinions allowed to seek election?
  • Are all parties free to hold public meetings without fear? Or, in the unique case of the 2020/2021 media-only based campaigns, can they easily access various media to promote their political agenda? Do the different candidates and political parties have equal access to the media?
  • Do candidates and parties have equal access to state broadcasters and other state resources?
  • Are the election rules and limits applied equally to all parties?
  • Are the police protecting all parties as they campaign and distribute information?
  • Do the parties disclose to the Electoral Commission the sources of their money, as required by the law?
  • Are government officials neutral and not using public money and resources such as vehicles to favour one party?
  • Is the ruling party making many announcements of new projects during the election campaign?
  • Are all polling stations known to all stakeholders?
  • Were electoral reforms passed? Was it done in time?
  • Did political parties issue election guidelines prior to their internal elections and did they follow these guidelines? 

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