Journalists under their umbrella organization the Uganda Press Freedom Network have protested the continued curtailment of independence of the media by government. They say that the recent move by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) banning live broadcasting of political events and its subsequent restrictions to media from giving platform to the 25 suspended MPs violates press freedom.
A group of 230 practising journalists under the collective Uganda Press Freedom Network on Monday released a statement noting that; “We are dismayed, to say the least, by the conduct of the Commission. We roundly condemn and reject its futile attempts to supress press freedom that it has now made a habit of.”
On September 26, UCC ordered broadcasters, especially television stations, “to immediately stop and refrain from broadcasting live feeds” of ongoing debates in Parliament over the age limits that wound up in fist fights. The Commission claimed such broadcasts incited violence, insecurity and hatred.
“UCC 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,” the statement adds.
Journalists argue that UCC’s mandate involves provision of communication for all, which inevitably includes dissenting political views. They have asked Editors and media executives to hold their ground and resist abuse of their rights and the values that journalism stands for.
“We want to challenge editors, news executives and indeed media owners who interface directly with these most unfortunate demands and actions by UCC and its partners to take a firmer stand in defence of a free press.”
Failure to push back against UCC’s “erroneous directives”, they say will compromise the credibility of the press in the eyes of the public which the media has a duty to inform and educate.
“Defend your reporters before they are too weak to defend you,” the statement signed by Gabriel Buule, Carol Beyanga, Benidicta Asiimwe, Isaac Imaka, Haggai Matsiko and Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi on behalf of the Network read.
“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,” they said.
In their view, suppression of the media is damaging Uganda’s reputation in the world and negatively affect the country’s attractiveness as an investment destination.