Lobbies accuse regulator of suppressing Uganda media

Monday October 21 2019

Ugandan journalists and activists demonstrate

Ugandan journalists and activists demonstrate in the capital Kampala on May 3, 2019, to demand the resignation of Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of Uganda Communications Commission. PHOTO | KELVIN ATUHAIRE | DAILY MONITOR   

By The East African

Human Rights Watch and Uganda media stakeholders have accused communications sector regulator—Uganda Communication’s Commission—of harassing the media.

“The government should be guaranteeing free and independent media, especially in light of forthcoming elections in 2021,” says Oryem Nyeko, Africa Division Researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Uganda Communication’s Commission (UCC) in a report recently asked five media houses to explain why their licences should not be suspended.

The report, titled Breach of the minimum broadcasting standards, the UCC says some of Uganda’s biggest broadcasters—NTV Uganda, NBS, Bukedde, BBS and Kingdom Television—should explain why their licences should not be revoked.

The bone of contention is the coverage of and broadcasting of the arrest of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine in April.

Programmes banned
The UCC accuses the five TV stations and a radio station, which saw one of its programmes banned, of breaching minimum broadcasting standards when they covered the Bobi Wine arrest.

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One television station and several radio stations were pardoned by UCC for showing remorse.

Only one radio station was deemed to have done no wrong.

Asked about the iron fist with which the regulator handles broadcast and online media, an official at UCC claimed the sectors required such actions.

This was echoed by Ibrahim Bbosa, UCC spokesperson, who said strong regulation of the media was necessary.

“The media has the ability to incite the public to committing crimes,” he said.

Mr Bbosa said a fight between MPs has to be censured because it can spark nationwide riots.

In the report, several news anchors and programme producers are accused of supporting opposition politicians, and don’t not give government agencies opportunity to reply.

Mr Bbosa said qualifications of newsroom staff will now be one of the requirements that UCC will consider when issuing licences to radio and television stations.

The UCC also requires broadcasters to submit their programme to the regulator at least seven days before they are aired for previewing.

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