27 September 2017

Uganda: UCC Directive Bites As Broadcasters Comply

Photo: Alex Esagala/Daily Monitor
A scene in Parliament after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga suspended 25 MPs including the State Minister for Water Ronald Kibuule.

Radio and television stations that have been relaying live proceedings of Parliament debating Constitutional amendments on Wednesday halted the broadcasts following a directive by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the sector regulator.

The halt which stems from a September 26 directive by the UCC boss, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi to all broadcasters to stop live feeds claimed that the live broadcasts were "inciting the public, discriminating, stirring up hatred, promoting a culture of violence amongst the viewers and are likely to create public insecurity or violence."

Mr Mutabazi said: "The Commission hereby directs all broadcasters to immediately stop and refrain from broadcasting live feeds which are in breach of the minimum broadcasting standards and the best practice guidelines for electronic media coverage/ reporting and broadcasting of live events."

However, some social media commenters have questioned why media houses would "just comply" with such a directive which could be challenged in court.

One Facebook user with account name Doreen Nyanjura said: "So when media houses are given stupid directives, they simply comply!" "Media houses, we are in this together, kindly defy the stupid orders by UCC. #102bishere2stay."

Another Facebook user Mayimuna Nabagereka wrote: "UCC bans Parliament plenary live coverage TILL when life presidency is voted on... #AgeLimit"

Mr Bill Tibaigana, the general secretary of Uganda National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), a loose coalition of broadcasters in Uganda said they were preparing a statement on the matter.

However, the Commission warned that it would not hesitate to carry out enforcement for non-compliance with these guidelines and any further breach will result in suspension and revocation of licenses in accordance with Section 41 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.

Mr Mutabazi said: "The Commission reminds broadcasters that such live broadcasts are a breach of minimum broadcasting standards as laid down in Section 31 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 and best practice guidelines for electronic media coverage/reporting and broadcasting of live events."

Legislators and other Ugandans are sharply divided on the impending scrapping of Article 102 (b) from the Constitution that bars people who are above 75 years from contesting for presidency.

The motion is seen by some as a ploy to allow President Museveni, 73, who has been in power for 31 years, to become eligible to contest again in 2021.

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