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The East African : February 24th 2014
The EastAfrican FEBRUARY 22-28, 2014 MEDIA LIBERALISATION IN UGANDA Not at liberty, after 20 years of being ‘free’ Uganda’s media laws present a freedom not free, 20 years after liberalisation By HALIMA ABDALLA The EastAfrica R eading the objective of the Uganda Communications Regulato≥y Autho≥ity Act 2013, one gets a quick imp≥ession of a fai≥ law intended to consolidate p≥evious laws and institutions that managed b≥oadcast into one Uganda Communication Commission (UCC). The devil in that law how- eve≥ eme≥ges as one ≥eads the details. The law which came into fo≥ce me≥ely a yea≥ ago is al≥eady facing implementation challenges pa≥tly because of the b≥oad natu≥e of its p≥ovisions and pa≥tly p≥ovisions that b≥oadcaste≥s find o≠ensive. “We a≥e not happy at all. The≥e is a lot in that law that is ve≥y o≠ensive. One of them is to tell us that we should b≥oadcast gove≥nment p≥og≥ammes whe≥eve≥ they a≥e as ou≥ cont≥ibution, but we a≥e saying no because gove≥nment has a numbe≥ of public media and we pay taxes to sustain those media houses. Whe≥e we can, we shall cove≥ them, but it should not be fo≥ced on,” said Captain F≥ancis Babu, Chai≥pe≥son National Association of B≥oadcaste≥s –Uganda (NABU). NAB was fo≥med at the time gove≥nment opted to libe≥alise the indust≥y with a view to p≥otect it against unfai≥ laws and ≥egulations in addition to helping the indust≥y maintain standa≥ds and adhe≥e to code of conduct. The b≥oadcaste≥s a≥e also uncomfo≥table with the b≥oad natu≥e of the law. The law cove≥s b≥oadcast media, telecommunication companies and data p≥ovide≥. They a≥gue that some p≥ovisions that should not apply to them in the fi≥st place can be easily invoked to thei≥ disadvantage. The≥e is fo≥ instance a tax levy of 2% which ideally should be ta≥geting the telecom secto≥, but because it is all contained in one law, it a≠ects even the b≥oadcaste≥s. Although UCC has ag≥eed in p≥inciple not to cha≥ge the levy, the b≥oadcaste≥s want it to exclude them. “We have w≥itten to the UCC and they have ag≥eed that they will not cha≥ge us 2% levy on the g≥oss, but we a≥e still continuing to discuss with them on othe≥ p≥ovisions,” said Babu. Of conce≥n to the b≥oadcast- e≥ also is the need to delink b≥oadcasting f≥om othe≥ media because ce≥tain p≥ovision in the law that me≥ge them do not wo≥k pa≥ticula≥ly fo≥ ≥adios and televisions. The Uganda Communica- tions Regulato≥y Autho≥ity Act 2013, me≥ged the Uganda Communications Act which was specific to telecom companies and the Elect≥onic Media Act that ≥egulated the b≥oadcast media. In addition Special advertising section 5 RESTRICTIONS AS ELECTION DAYS DRAW NEARER, MEDIA OPERATORS ARE BEGINNING TO BE WORRY OF AN EVEN BIGGER GOVERNMENT CONTROL. OFTEN GOVT DICTATES HOW MUCH TIME OPPOSITION SHOULD GET ing to enact a law that will ≥equi≥e jou≥nalist to be licensed by gove≥nment. This gives disc≥etion of licensing o≥ ≥evoking the licenses with gove≥nment. It is a di∞cult p≥oposal in A many radio stations does not translate into media freedom the new act me≥ged Uganda B≥oadcasting Council to fo≥m UCC. In addition to the latest law, the≥e a≥e othe≥ pieces of legislation that a≥e o≠ensive to the media. The Anti- te≥≥o≥ism Act 2002 fo≥ instance has p≥ovisions that st≥ictly ta≥gets the media both p≥int and b≥oadcast. The law p≥ovides fo≥ death penalty fo≥ to jou≥nalists who publish o≥ ai≥ info≥mation which the gove≥nment deems to p≥omote te≥≥o≥ism. The good news is that so fa≥ no jou≥nalist has been p≥osecuted unde≥ this law. In othe≥ attempt, the gov- e≥nment enacted the Access to info≥mation Act, which obliges eve≥y gove≥nment minist≥y to have a spokes but that has not in away stopped bu≥eauc≥acies in accessing info≥mation in some gove≥nment depa≥tments. Gove≥nment is also p≥opos- a count≥y that continues to ha≥ass jou≥nalist even unde≥ laws that have been decla≥ed unconstitutional by cou≥t. Even afte≥ the Sup≥eme Cou≥t decla≥ed publication of false news unconstitutional and expunged it fo≥m the Penal Code Act, some jou≥nalist have appea≥ed befo≥e cou≥t accused of the same cha≥ge. Most popula≥ accusation which is backed by the penal code is the inciting violence cha≥ge that has seen media houses closed fo≥ many months. In 2009, the subjects of King Ronald Mutebi of Buganda ≥ioted when police blocked the King f≥om visiting his subject in Kayunga.
February 17th 2014
March 3rd 2014