The European Union and United States missions in Uganda have warned government against its crackdown on freedom of the media.
The Uganda Communications Commisson(UCC) in an April 30 communication, ordered a number of media houses including; NBS TV, NTV, Salt TV, BBS TV, Bukedde TV, Kingdom TV, Capital FM, CBS FM, Simba FM, Pearl FM, Akaboozi FM, Beat FM, and Sapientia FM, to suspend 39 producers, head of news and head of programs or else they risk sanctions over what they termed as a breach of minimum standards.
However, in statements as the world marked the press freedom day on Friday, the Heads of Mission for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom and the Heads of Mission of Iceland, Japan, Norway, Republic of Korea and United States said it is appalling that media space is day by day shrinking in Uganda.
“We are deeply concerned with a series of recent incidents restricting the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Uganda,” the joint statement from the missions read in part.
The US ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac said it is unfortunate that press freedom in Uganda is under assault noting that this state of affairs on the media has long-lasting negative effects.
“When it comes to press freedom in Uganda, things are getting worse. So what can we do about it? Well, today is a good start. Our coming together and reaffirmation of our commitment to supporting press freedom and Uganda’s journalist community is essential,”Malac said.
“We of course must use our collective influence to urge the government to improve its record.”
The EU on the other side urged government to follow the provisions of the constitution in regards press freedom.
“We urge the government of Uganda to ensure the implementation of the relevant laws and regulations,” the EU said.
In in statement early this week, UCC ordered the immediate suspension of 39 producers, heads of programming and heads of news from 13 media houses as it investigates alleged breach of minimum broadcasting standards while covering the arrest of MP Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine .
Members of Parliament early this week asked UCC to explain the orders they said were meant to gag the media.
The National Association of Broadcasters Chairman, Kin Kariisa in a statement said the directive by UCC creates an environment of fear and threats.
“Abrupt suspension of key staff on orders of UCC will have adverse consequences of weakening standards and controls already established at the media houses and amplify the risk that led to UCC’s intervention in the first place,”Kariisa said in the statement.
UCC on Friday afternoon said they would meet with the broadcasters’ leaders next week.