Journalists under their umbrella body, the Uganda Journalists Association have dragged the Uganda Communications Commission to court asking for declarations that orders for investigating several journalists is illegal.
UCC in an April 30 communication ordered 13 media houses to suspend 39 news managers, producers and heads of production as investigations into what they termed as violation of minimum broadcast standards go on.
In their application, UJA seeks for a temporary injunction halting the suspension of the journalists before the main application is disposed of by court.
In the main application, the journalists’ body says the orders by UCC are an infringement on the freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in the constitution.
“The respondent(UCC) through the impugned directives threatens and intends to unfairly, unconstitutionally and arbitrarily exercise statutory powers, violate media freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, human rights of media workers and the right to information,” UJA says in their suit.
The journalists’ body also argues the directives interfere with editorial freedom and independence of media by purporting to set arbitrary and unconstitutional standards which are neither enshrined in the constitution nor in the laws of Uganda.
“Unless restrained by this honorable court, the respondent will arbitrarily gag the media, curtail free speech and freedom of expression, impose unconstitutional limitations and blankets on the media which are not acceptably and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society,” UJA says.
They also argue that unless reigned on, UCC will freeze and stagnate the citizens’ right to information, freedom of propagation and interchange of idea.
The case is set to be heard today ,Wednesday at 11am at the Civil Division of the High Court at Ted Towers in Kampala.
In their April 30 communication, UCC 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 their producers, head of news and head of programs or else they risk sanctions prompting NAB to write back to them asking for a reversal of the orders.
Following a Tuesday meeting with broadcasters, UCC rescinded its decision to have the affected journalists suspended from their workplaces but rather step aside from their usual positions to allow for investigations.
The investigations are set to last for one month.