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Uganda’s Electoral Commission on Sunday issued new guidelines on the use of cameras and recording devices at polling centers as the country’s general elections draw close.

Electoral Commission in a statement issued here said the use of cameras or recording devices inside the polling stations (usually cordoned off open areas) is prohibited so that voters can cast their ballot in secrecy.

“Given the nature of our polling booth, which is an open basin, the presence of cameras inside polling stations may jeopardize the secrecy of the ballot,” the statement said.

The commission said the secrecy of the ballot is aimed at ensuring that a vote is anonymous and cannot be traced back to the person who cast it. “A secret ballot is, therefore, fundamental in achieving peaceful, free and fair elections,” it said.

The commission said while phones are not prohibited at polling centers, they must not be used for recording purposes or taking photographs inside the centers.

Journalists will be permitted to access polling stations and may take photographs of the voting process, but outside the cordoned-off area in a manner that protects the privacy of voters and the secrecy of the ballot, said the commission.

However, during the vote-counting process, a voter or a candidate’s agent may take photographs or recordings of the process. They may also photograph or record the issued Declaration of Results Form, the commission noted.

Uganda will on January 14 go to the polls, electing a new president and members of parliament. In the presidential race, there are 11 candidates including incumbent president Yoweri Museveni who has been in power for over 30 years.

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