The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi has defended his directive of suspending staff of radio and TV stations for allegedly breaching minimum broadcasting standards.
Mr Mutabazi hit back at critics saying that “UCC is exercising its mandate as granted in the law and that those criticising UCC, don’t know the law and have been used to culture of no regulation.”
UCC has since Tuesday been on spotlight for directing 13 radios and TVs to suspend 39 staff for what is called breach of minimum broadcasting standards.
The stations are; 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. UCC ordered each of the stations to suspend the Producers, Head of News, and Head of Programmes.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on Thursday asked the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to rescind directive. NAB chairman, Kin Karisa wrote to Mutabazi saying that effecting the “abrupt suspension of key staff on orders of UCC will have adverse consequences” on operations of media houses. But Mutabazi told this reporter that he had not received NAB letter.
Mutabazi argued that the media is not looking at who could be stirring and sponsoring Bobi Wine protests. He said that foreign forces are interested in destabilising Uganda.
Mutabazi said that broadcasters have refused to adhere to conditions requiring them to have equipment that edits foul language and statement that incite violence during live broadcasts. The regulator, he said only intervenes when stations live broadcast programmes deemed to “misrepresent information, views, facts and events in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public.”
Meanwhile, media experts have condemned the directives from UCC.
Fred Kakooza (Journalism Lecturer at Makerere University) via Facebook: It is time to advocate for critical amendments to the Communications Act 2013 particularly on the function of broadcasting in Uganda. The minimum broadcasting standards need to be unpacked and not to be used arbitrary by UCC to suffocate diversity and plurality of local content production in Uganda.
It is time for all of us to focus on how we protect the shrinking media space in Uganda. It is time to advocate for an Independent Media Council empowered to arbitrate in such circumstances. You cannot suspend without due diligence. I am particularly interested in how the content that was broadcasted was tested against the minimum broadcasting standards.
Charles Onyango Obbo via Twitter:
@UCC_Official's actions is regulatory overreach at its worst. If we aren't careful, this means that Bank of Uganda can fire staff in banks it regulates, or the Uganda Coffee Development Authority can tell coffee growers who to employ on their plantations.
— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) May 2, 2019
Angelo Izama via Twitter:
Not to mention that the orders are basically illegal @UCC_Official I am waiting for the #Ugandalawsociety to weigh in here. Safeguarding the right to dissent, an essential pillar of free speech, and the right to association is the job of UCC. https://t.co/52kTUFNd3S
— Angelo Izama (@Opiaiya) May 2, 2019