Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) boss ban on debating Tooro Kingdom issues is unconstitutional and violets media freedoms & freedom of expression

On 26th December 2014, Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi the Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director who also serves and information minister in Tooro Kingdom issued a directive stopping the broadcast of programs and news related to Tooro Kingdom and its officials.

A strong warning was issued to Hits FM, Gold FM, Voice of Tooro (VOT)  FM and Better FM to desist from hosting activists critical of Tooro Kingdom Administration and its royals. The ban was specifically putting emphasis on the youth activists group Amacumu ne’Bitara which has fallen out with the Kingdom administration over a number of management issues.

Radio stations that defy the order have been warned with withdraw of broadcasting licenses. The verbal orders that were personally communicated to stations by the UCC Executive Director followed strong criticism from the youth activists targeting the King and the queen mother’s administration and the manner in which they managed negotiations with central government to return Tooro Kingdom assets.

The ban has suspended open debate and news broadcast from all radio stations that debate or disseminate information critical of Tooro Kingdom. This directive was issued without clarification on what media rules had been violated.

Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC) also observes conflict of interest in the execution of these unfair and unjustified orders. Engineer Mutabaazi’s role as the information minister in Tooro Kingdom administration could have been a key influence in stopping open debates on issues arising from Tooro Kingdom.

Whereas UCC is mandated under the Uganda Communications Act 2013 to regulate and control what should be broadcasted on air, it has a duty to ensure those roles are performed without infringing upon the right to free media and expression as enshrined in the supreme law of the land (Chapter four of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, as amended) thus Article 29(1) Every one shall have a right to-(a) Freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media and (b) Freedom of thought, conscience and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning.

A general suspension prohibiting debate and news broadcast on radio about Tooro Kingdom issues without specifying grounds of the suspension is unfortunate and has no space in a free and fair democratic society.

Similar suspensions have in the past months targeted radio stations in Rwenzori that host talk shows that debate national governance and human rights issues.

TLC appeals to the Uganda Communications Commission as follows;

  • To lift the suspension on radio stations in order to report news, debate governance and human rights issues uncensored.
  • Promote and uphold broadcast standards without prejudice and conflict of interest as observed in this case.

 

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