The Uganda Communications Commission has said it will withdraw licences of broadcasting houses which engage in political campaigns instead of news reporting, irrespective of whether this is interpreted as a government clamp-down on media freedoms.
UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi told the Daily Monitor last evening that the government has complained that some media houses have turned the Gen. David Sejusa story into a political campaign. “If somebody complains to the UCC, it is under obligation to act.
The government complained that the media is trying to create insecurity, which is unacceptable. If the material broadcast could cause insecurity, we shall withdraw the licence,” Mr Mutabazi said.
“Whether you interprete that as gagging or not, being a responsible journalist does not amount to gagging.”
Mr Mutabazi’s comments emphasised an earlier warning contained in a full page advert taken out by the UCC in the press yesterday. “… As the regulator for the broadcasting subsector, the Commission’s Content Monitoring Team has established that broadcasts by some media houses on the recent events surrounding Gen. Sejusa (Tinyefuza’s) letter to the Director General of ISO have not been professional and impartial,” the UCC advert said.
UCC proclamations opposed
The Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU), which was formed in 2006 to promote media ethics, protested UCC’s proclamations as a threat to the constitutional right to free speech. “Claims that the media have acted unprofessionally are not true. UCC is preparing the ground for the closure of some radio and television stations,” IMCU Executive Secretary Haruna Kanaabi said. “Mr Mutabazi said in contextualising stories about Gen Sejusa’s calls for an investigation into claims that there are plans to kill State officials opposed to a so-called plot by President Museveni to impose his son on Uganda as the next President, the media has veered from reporting news to campaigning.
The UCC advert said the coverage by some media houses of the story was capable of derailing the socio-economic stability of Uganda. However, Mr Kanaabi said ever since Gen Sejusa kicked up the storm, not even the government has petitioned the IMCU on alleged unprofessional conduct by the media. “They should tell us which media house has acted unprofessionally, and what exactly they did that was unprofessional,” he said. “But even if there were such cases, the best response would be to counter them instead of make threatening announcements.”
Tinye’s home searched
In a related development, the security agents for a second time searched Gen Sejusa’s offices in the city suburb of Naguru. The security agents dressed in military, regular and riot police uniform cordoned off the house which also houses the family residence from 10am and to 5pm.
Earlier, Gen Sejusa’s lawyers had written to the Buganda Road and Nakawa chief magistrate courts, requesting that they be present during the search to avoid harassment of his family. Mr Joseph Luzige, who accompanied the security agents, told the Daily Monitor that the officers were looking for “the specific letter published by the Monitor”.
Though Mr Luzige applauded the professionalism exhibited by the Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations, Mr Geoffrey Musana, there were initial disagreements between the lawyers and the security agents. “In the beginning, CMI and ISO wanted to participate in the search but I objected to that. It is only police that is supposed to carry out the search. I [commend] Mr Musana for the professionalism he exhibited by chasing them away and the search was really peaceful,” Mr Luzige said.