Ugandan Magistrate Orders Disclosure by Government

12 March 2015

In a major first victory under the Ugandan Access to Information act, a magistrate ordered the government to disclose information about the procurement of equipment to fight forest fires.

The requester was Edward Sekyewa, Executive Director of the Hub for Investigative Media.

The decision has not been adequately reported by the media, according to an article by Peter G. Mwesige, co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME).

Edward Sekyewa should by now have been all over the newspapers,” Mwesige wrote. “He should have been invited to at least seven radio talk shows and three TV talk shows. A hashtag with his name should have been trending on Twitter in our part of the world.”

“None of this has happened of course,” he continued, going on to praise his use of Uganda’s Access to Information Act, 2005.”.

“Of the 24 requests he has filed, access has been granted in only four cases. Six have been denied, while 16 are pending. You can see the details and status of his requests here.”

Victory Ignored by Media

Sekyewa sued the National Forestry Authority to Court for denying his 2013 request for “access to information regarding the procurement of the necessary equipment for prohibiting, control and management of fires in the 506 Central Forest Reserves in the country” within the statutory 21 days.

Chief Magistrate Boniface Wamala at Mengo on Feb. 6 ruled that the National Forestry Authority “acted in blatant disregard of the law” and ordered the records disclosed.

“As far as I know, this is a first in Uganda,” Mwesige commented. He said it was a “tragedy” that the victory has been ignored by the media.”

“The media should pay as much if not more attention to freedom of expression and access to information issues as they do to the theatre of our politics and the drama and politics of sex videos,” Mwesige wrote.

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