Letter to the media fraternity

Friday May 10 2019


By Hussein Lumumba Amin

To the Ugandan media fraternity, owners, editors, presenters, reporters and all the others who quietly make untold background contributions to the continued existence and development of every single media house in many other humble ways. There is no time to backtrack or relax simply because you had a meeting with Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

As you know, the problems we have always faced for the last two and a half decades since independent media started in Uganda, is to maintain press freedom. Let us all agree at this moment that it is a battle that never ends. And the challenges to media freedoms are deeply systemic and institutional. The situation has always been even worse for upcountry-based media stations.

The media constantly faces covert and overt bullying by State agents, including blatant attempts to corrupt the media so as to influence its publications/broadcasts. Maintaining editorial independence is one of the daily untold battles of the free media in this country.

Why hasn’t UCC ever taken any single person to court over defamation or false information? Why is it always about threatening closure of entire stations, or threatening to withdraw media licences yet defamation and false information laws plus related judicial procedures existed even before the creation of UCC interference that seems to first usurp the powers of the courts to determine right and wrong.

UCC apparently seems to be operating under obscure political influence lurking in the background instead of being a professional institution that is mandated to support and develop the media and telecoms industry.

Therefore, there is no better action than to return to courts their full power. The power to publicly establish the limits of those who have clearly misunderstood their jobs and have now crossed the line, including in shutting down programmes and entire radio stations, even ordering termination of employment of certain staff in the private media.

Because that is now probably in the domain of political persecution where media and journalists who cover political issues in ways that do not satisfy certain politicians, are unilaterally deemed operating “below minimum broadcasting standards” and summarily shut down, their licences withdrawn, or their staff fired.

That is the true state of the media in this country despite all the embellishment that politicians might want to utter publicly to the country’s donors. There is no excuse for such unilateral, despotic and dictatorial behaviour as they have no place in a democratic Uganda.

Therefore, despite extension of similar interference in the independence of the courts, I urge those who have gone to the Judiciary to proceed until up to the very end where a judgement is made on the matters put before court in respect to clear provisions of the 1995 Constitution.
God Bless.

Hussein Lumumba Amin,