local broadcasters, Journalists put UCC on spot over bans, threats

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The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and journalists in Uganda has expressed dissatisfaction with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) over what they claim is a move by to gag media.

In a letter issued by their chairperson, Kin Kariisa, NAB is seeking accountability about the recent directives and alleged threats from the commission.

On September 26, UCC issued directive to all media houses, stopping them from hosting certain "critical" people on air. The directive came less than a week after another which banned broadcasting live events, related to the lifting of the presidential age limit, that were allegedly inciting the public.

However, in his letter Kariisa insists that the UCC avail evidence of any incitement stemming from live broadcasts.

“It is our view that the messenger should not bear the brunt of of any such factual message for which the public has a right to see and hear. We are yet to see (and welcome the same) evidence for the incitement as alleged from these live broadcasts with an introspective view of other mediums to which public is exposed where violence is a staple feature,” Kariisa, the CEO of NBS TV wrote.

“With respect to the alleged telephone directives received by some of our members, if true, wish to state that its highly regrettable and unbecoming of any officer of government to act in such a manner of ‘unaccountable’ threats and intimidation. We request that you investigate this and put stop to it,” he added.

Management of Capital FM radio in Kampala claim that they received directives and threats from unknown government sources not to host Kyadondo East member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine on their political talk show, Capital Gang.

The show host, Oscar Ssemweya Musoke would later confirm on social media that indeed they were unable to host the singer cum politician due to threats from some people in government.

The event later sparked rumour that the UCC had directed a certain section of legislators who are against the age limit removal not to be hosted by any media house.

NAB also accuses UCC of harassing, intimidating as well as closing member stations upcountry, which Kariisa says is a breach of democratic principles and should be condemned.

He furthers requests the executive director of the commission to avail time for a meeting to come to a workable solution that will guide operations going forward.

Meanwhile, journalists under an informal group dubbed, Press Freedom Forum, have called upon UCC to review its conduct and desist from any actions that undercut the media sector that it is set up to promote.

In a statement released Monday, the journalists cite UCC’s ban on broadcasting live events as well as banning certain legislators from being hosted by media houses, which they say are “futile attempts to suppress press freedom.”

“The Commission, more than anybody else, should be at the forefront of protecting and promoting the rights of journalists and media houses in Uganda to operate freely. This is important if for nothing else to fulfil its promise of providing communication for all, which inevitably includes the views they might disagree with for political or other reasons. The Commission’s core mandate to regulate minimum broadcasting standards DOES NOT include a misreading and misapplication of the law, or stretching its obligations to determine which persons media houses host or what reports they carry,” the statement read in part.

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