Access to information: Challenge those who hold information in courts of law

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Stakeholders in the media fraternity have been advised to utilize provisions within the law to access information where it is denied.

Speaking to journalists on media law in Uganda at a meeting organized by CoST Uganda Chapter – the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative hosted by Africa Freedom of Information center (AFIC) , Vision group lawyer Tony Kirabira said many office bearers hold crucial information under the guise of “classified information” even where it does not apply.

“Court is supposed to determine what is considered classified, but because journalists are not aware of their rights, they automatically back off when told that information is classified. It may be hard for one person to go to court but a group can challenge this”. Said Mr. Kirabira.

At the same meeting, CoST Uganda Chapter unveiled media awards for journalists who run stories on infrastructure transparency.

The Programme Officer, Olive Kabatwairwe said the awards are meant to encourage journalists to cover stories on infrastructure, use disclosed information to inform authentic reporting and engage duty bearers to account.

She said,  all submissions must have been published or broadcast in a Ugandan media outlet or a regional outlet with a substantial Ugandan audience between August 2017 and July 2018.

“The awards will be awarded based on who scored highest in developing objective articles, running stories, social media posts in the CoST core features of Assurance, Disclosure, Social Accountability and Multi-stakeholder working arrangement”Kabatwairwe emphasized.

She adds that a decision has been taken to have the media submit entries based on areas of stakeholder participation in the delivery of infrastructure projects in Uganda including;

1. Stakeholder participation in the delivery of infrastructure projects in Uganda

2. Data disclosed and data withheld

3. Supervision of contracts  and delivery of public works

4. Climate change and infrastructure development.

CoST is a Multi-stakeholder working initiative that promotes transparency, value for money through building the capacity of citizens and Procurement Entities to use data to inform the delivery of infrastructure projects. The idea is that, information is power, and with correct information, everyone will be armed with the rightful tools of engagement.  CoST’s work is informed by tools such as the Infrastructure Data Standard, the Infrastructure Monitoring pathway, Disclosure frameworks,  Multi-Stakeholder working members, and the Assurance Process. These help the initiative, identify best practices, lessons and case studies for replica.