Twaweza has submitted suggestions for the Regulations for implementation of the Media Services Act, No. 12 of 2016. This was in response to an invitation from the Ministry of Information, Culture, Artists and Sports.
In our earlier analysis of the new law, we expressed strong concern that the Act is not consistent with basic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It contains several features that go well beyond what is considered normal in a democracy.
The regulations offer an opportunity to address some of these concerns. We have prepared our input to the regulations with this opportunity in mind. Our suggestions include the following:
On the licensing and operations of newspapers and other media:
- Any registration system for the print media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.
- Print media should only have to provide limited info (name, owners, printer, address & editor-in-chief).
- Director of Information should only reject a license application on very limited grounds (e.g. duplicate name).
- Print media should only be required to respect the professional standards set by the Council.
- The government shall neither instruct nor compel the media to report or not report on any particular matter
- Publishers of books, academic or professional research reports, booklets, brochures, leaflets, calendars and other similar material should be expressly exempt.
On the accreditation of journalists, and appeals by journalists against decisions of the Journalist Accreditation Board:
- No conditions should be placed on who may be a journalist.
- The procedural rules for applying for accreditation should be very simple and rapid.
- No journalist shall be expunged from the Roll on account of the content of their work as a journalist.
- The Board shall rely on warnings rather than fines for enforcing the rules relating to accreditation.
- The regulations should set very low maximum limits on the fines which might be imposed.
- The regulations should waive any fines where a practicing journalist has applied for accreditation but has yet to receive a formal response.
- Appeals to the Minister should be rapid and simple.
- Any journalist appealing against a board decision shall not be required to pay for their appeal.
- Until an appeal process has been concluded, any journalist who has initiated an appeal should be allowed to continue practicing.
- The Minister must be prohibited from imposing more burdensome regulations on an appellant.
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