Pressure piles on UCC over media ban

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is facing harsh criticism over its directive which when followed to the letter will render at least 39 journalists jobless at 13 broadcast media houses in Uganda.

On May 1, UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi wrote to 13 media houses namely; NBS TV, NTV, Bukedde TV, BBS Terefayina, Salt TV, CBS FM, Akaboozi , Kingdom TV, Pearl FM, Radio Sapientia, Capital FM and Beat FM, demanding for the suspension of the respective programs producers, managers and news editors, accusing them of broadcasting the April 29 arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).

Mutabazi’s directive was seen by many press freedom activists both within Uganda and globally, with many interpreting it as an affront to media freedom.

The timing of Mutabazi’s directive itself raised eyebrows, having issued it on a day when the world commemorates the International Labour Day – dedicated to the advancement and respect of workers’ rights.

It also came two days to the World Press Freedom Day which is celebrated every May 3 to raise awareness on the fundamental principles of press freedom.

In a statement, Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) President Lucy Anyango Ekadu said, the latest developments are reminiscent of the draconian laws by past dictatorial regimes that aim at intimidating journalists, suppressing freedom of expression, stifling voices of dissent, and in a long run muzzle media freedom.

“The directive by the UCC is a deliberate move to intimidate journalists, stifle voices of dissent, and suppress divergent views while muzzling media freedom in the country,” Ekadu said,

She further said that as a watchdog of society, the media has a duty to communication to the public independently, objectively and responsibly using a multiplicity of sources at their disposal without fear or favour.

“We have noted growing cases of press freedom violations in Uganda with impunity where many journalists are intimidated, beaten, tortured, arrested and detained sometimes incommunicado by security agencies,” she said.

Ekadu called on President Yoweri Museveni to rescind the UCC decision which has been condemned by global journalists with Uganda ranked among worst Press Freedom violators in the world.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Observatory of Human Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Media Support (IMS), the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ). Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), Kenya Editors Guild, Al Jazeera Media Network, BBC World Service, Freedom House, Article 19, Centre for Media Ethics, among others have shown solidarity with Ugandan journalists.