The Right to Know: An Analytical Study of The Access to Information Act in Uganda And Its Implications for Journalism Practice

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Kampala International University, Colleges of humanities and social sciences
This study entitled: The Right to Know: An Analytical study of the Access to Information Act in Uganda and its implications to Journalism practice is a critical analysis of the Access to Information Act 2005, a piece of legislation that empowers all Ugandans to access information in possession of the State. The right of access to information gives practical meaning to the principles of participatory democracy. In this study, the researcher focuses on identifying the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the Access to Information Act 2005 especially during its implementation stage. The Access to Information Act is critically assessed to establish its compliance with the internationally agreed standards and related legislations especially in the Commonwealth. In addition, the Access to Information Act is evaluated in terms of its implications to Journalism practice in Uganda. According to Quinton (1997), the theoretical perspectives which guide this discussion on the Access to Information Act are the Democratic and Market Imperatives. The Democratic Imperative emphasizes the importance of implementing policies aimed at promoting administrative transparency and encouraging active participation of the people in a democratic process while the Market Imperative explores the need for implementing legislation to fully exploit the economic values of the massive amount of information accumulated by the public sector in the everyday running of its affairs. The findings from the study revealed that this law is one of the least known in Uganda regardless of the social standing of individuals in society. It was found out that the law has not been implemented despite becoming effective in 2005. To date, there is no clear roadmap for its implementation, no manuals have been produced by the respective public bodies and no resources have been earmarked for its full-scale implementation. Although the Access to Information Act follows the classical format of the freedom of information laws in other countries, this right has been watered down by its limited scope of application such as the exemption meant to bar non-citizens from accessing national ix information. In addition, the findings from the study show that the Access to Information Act lacks an internal appeal mechanism in case of complaints by requestors and it also fails to specify the level of fees payable after the request for access to information has been granted. The responsibility of determining fees payable is left to the Minister responsible for implementing the Access to Information Act who is mandated to make regions. According to the study findings. Journalists blamed government for limited consultations with them in the process of enacting this law and also highlighted the lack of political will by government to implement the Access to Information Act. Some Journalists have no hope in the Act because the time frame of 21 days within which information can he provided is too long and can only be utilized when writing feature stories. The study recommends massive sensitization of Ugandans about the Access to Information Act and calls upon Government to demonstrate its commitment towards the implementation of the law by committing the necessary resources and mandating an independent body to promote the Access to information Act. The study also recommends that Government must invest in modern records management systems if the law is to be successfully implemented. Finally, an explicit provision is required in the law to make it clear that this law overrides all other inconsistent legislation such as the Oath of Secrecy which still exists in Uganda’s law books.
A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of The Requirement for The Award of The Degree of Mass communication At Kampala International