Court: UCC directives against journalists illegal

High Court in Kampala has issued a temporary injunction restraining Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and its agents from enforcing its April 30 directive to 13 media houses to suspend key staff over their live broadcast of the events that led to the arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine on April 29.

The directive was affecting six TV stations; NBS TV, BBS TV, NTV, Bukedde TV, Kingdom TV and Salt TV and seven radio stations; Akaboozi, Beat FM, Capital FM, Pearl FM, Sapientia FM and Radio Simba.

Justice Lydia Mugambe of High Court Civil Division on Thursday says that the UCC’s directive was illegal since it contravened with the journalists rights of freedom of speech, expression, publication among others enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda.

Justice Mugambe argued that after UCC issuing its directive on April 30, it held a meeting with National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on May 7 to discuss with them what the directive was all about yet the court proceedings had commenced on May 2.

Mugambe thus issued an interim order pending the disposal of the main application for judicial review filed in two separate suits by Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) and lawyers Henry Byansi and Ronald Bwire who argued that UCC’s directive to media houses to immediately suspend their producers, heads of news and heads of programmes pending conclusion of the investigations was an infringement on the constitutional rights of the journalists.

The Commission had in its directive demanded that within three days from the date when it was issued, the media houses should submit to them the names, particulars and qualifications of the subject office holders.

It also demanded that within three days the media houses should submit the recordings of all live programs and news bulletins aired on April 29.

Journalists through their umbrella association; UJA demanded an interim order stopping UCC from implementing the directive.

UCC through its lawyer Abdul Salaam Waiswa unsuccessfully objected to the application arguing that by granting the said order, its powers to regulate the media houses will have been reduced.

Under the circumstances, Waiswa said, UCC will go with what court has determined until the main case is determined.

UJA members through their secretary for Human Rights and Safety, Arnold Mukose have welcomed the ruling saying it has been long overdue.