Opposition Members of Parliament have tasked the government to respect press freedom and call to order the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) over directives requiring media houses to suspend staff.
In a plenary session on Thursday chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said that as the world prepares to commemorate Press Freedom Day on Friday 3rd, UCC is issuing draconian orders to suspend journalists for covering the arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Hon. Ssemujju said that battering journalists and abuse of freedom of the media could only attract fortune hunters, not tourists. He demanded that government briefs parliament about the developments in the media industry.
On Wednesday, UCC said it had ordered 13 radio stations and Televisions to suspend 39 staff over breach of minimum broadcasting standards. The lists released by UCC on Wednesday evening include six televisions and seven radios.
These included Akaboozi Fm, BBS TV, Beat Fm, Bukedde TV, Capital FM, CBS FM, Kingdom Tv, Nbs TV, Ntv, Pearl Fm, Salt Tv, Sapientia FM and Simba Fm.
The Commission ordered each of the stations to suspend the producers, head of news, and head of programmes.
Hon. Ssemujju said that Uganda’s global ranking on media freedoms is steadily dropping due to abuse of media freedom.
Butambala County MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi said that Parliament had a mandate to defend accord and protect the Constitution and that is UCC is abusing the law.
He demanded that the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Minister Frank Tumwebaze who was absent in the House appears to make a statement instead of the State Minister for Housing, Chris Baryomunsi who wanted to brief the legislators about the matter.
Rubaga North MP Moses Kasibante also argued that Parliament had a mandate to reign in on actions by UCC.
Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko said that different radio stations have in the recently been switched off for hosting former Presidential Candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and other opposition leaders.
Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah argued that Parliament’s mandate is to audit the performance of institutions on their mandates and functions.
Chris Baryomunsi, the State Minister for Housing advised that if media houses are not satisfied with the UCC directives, they should petition courts of law.
Baryomunsi said that government was committed to ensure that freedoms are observed through the institutions mandated to do so.