While President Museveni has been delivering New Year messages since he came to power in 1986, it has not been mandatory for private media houses to broadcast his message live.
In his December 22 letter to all broadcasters in Uganda, however, UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi said all broadcasters will be required to allocate President Museveni two hours to deliver his New Year message to Ugandans between 10:00pm and 12:00am.
The time has since been changed to 7pm to 9pm in yet another directive dated December 28.
Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University, described the directive as a move by the government and President Museveni to do what he calls damage control.
He warned that such a move could lead to totalitarian regimes such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi’s in Libya.
Ndebesa, a member of the Society for Justice and National Unity (SOJNU), a political think-tank eplained that at times there is a sycophancy of cadres which is mistaken for the directive of the president.
“It could be an enthusiastic cadre of President Museveni by the names of Mutabazi who gave that directive because otherwise to me, they should request media houses to broadcast the president’s new year’s message and not to direct as if it is compulsory,” he said.
Dr. William Tayeebwa, the Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University, said such a directive rubs a section of citizens the wrong way especially after parliament recently passed a controversial piece of legislation to remove presidential age limits.
Popularly known as the ‘age limit’ bill, the Constitution Amendment (Number 2) Bill was passed 10 days ago ending months of acrimony parliament.
Dr. Tayeebwa argued that UCC should have requested private media houses to broadcast the president’s message instead of giving directives.