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US MISSION: No reason to ban cameras at polling stations

US’s ambassador Malac visits a polling station during the last Uganda elections. This photo would not have been taken, if the new regulations were in place.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The United States (US) Mission has appealed to parliament to uphold internal best practices and allow the use of cameras and phones at polling stations during the 2021 general elections.

In a brief statement issued on the US Mission Uganda official twitter handle Wednesday, the Mission says that the proposal by Electoral Commission (EC) to ban cameras and phones would prevent the media from providing effective election coverage.

“Ugandans deserve free, fair and transparent electoral process,” reads the statement. While appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee last week, which collecting views on proposed electoral reforms, Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama proposed a ban on the use of cameras at polling stations.

Justice Byabakama proposed that no person should be allowed to use a camera of any kind or recording devise inside a polling station during election as a way of protecting the privacy of voters who wish to vote in secrecy. He proposed a penalty of Shillings 800,000 or two year’s imprisonment or both for any person found guilty of contravening the provision.   The proposal has already drawn sharp criticism from legislators and on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and other political players.

On Tuesday, the National Resistance Movement-NRM Party officials led by their Secretary General, Justine Kasule Lumumba opposed the proposal, saying there is need to hold transparent elections in the full glare of the media and cameras so as to remove any doubt on the winner of the polls.

Equally, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Secretary General, Nathan Nandala Mafabi questioned the motive behind the Electoral Commission proposal. He said transparency is key is key for the Commission if free and fair elections are to be achieved.

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