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Broadcasters protest UCC orders to suspend NBS TV top editors

UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi and Next Media Services CEO Dr. Kin Kariisa.  has rejected a directive from the regulator, telling them to suspend top editors over live broadcast of political events. (PHOTO/PML)

KAMPALA – The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the umbrella body for all broadcasters, has rejected a directive from the regulator, telling them to suspend top editors over live broadcast of political events surrounding activities of Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

UCC early this week ordered for the suspension of 39 top producers, heads of programming and heads of news at various media houses including NBS Television, NTV Uganda among others citing a breach of minimum broadcasting standards.

In separate letters sent to the different media houses by UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi, UCC claimed it has observed misrepresentations information, views, facts and events in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public during live broadcasts and main news bulletins.

UCC further accuses the media houses of airing programs that have extremist or anarchic messages, including incitement of violence for political and/or other purposes and ”inciting public against other members of the public based on their political, religious, cultural and tribal affiliations which are likely to create public insecurity or violence.”

The NAB has however, slammed the Commission for unfair directive saying it is intended to stifle free and fair coverage of all news content, on top of targeting some individual media practitioners.

NAB Chairman Dr.Kin Kariisa, also CEO Next Media Services the holders of NBS Television, who was also directed to suspend their head of news Ms. Joyce Bagala, Mr. Chris Wanobere the progammes manager and producer Canary Mugume has rejected the demands and instead suggested for a meeting with the regulator.

Mr. Kariisa in a statement Thursday, May 2, noted that; …It is concerning that some media houses have been instructed to immediately suspend their key staff, specifically heads of Programming, Production and News.”

Dr. Kariisa noted the NAB believes media plays a key role in shaping a healthy democracy by exposing loopholes in the democratic system which ultimately helps government in filling them and making the system more accountable, responsive and citizen-friendly.

He stressed that the abrupt suspension of key staff on orders of UCC will have adverse consequences including undermining the quality of journalism by creating an environment of fear and weakening standards and controls already established at the media houses and amplify the risk that led to UCC’s intervention in the first place.

Others include compromising the opportunity for dialogue between UCC and broadcasters based on past relationship, telling the regulator to rescinds the pending an urgent meeting between the two parties at “your call.”
Relatedly, Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), a formal group of up to 260 journalists from various media houses in Uganda, has protested the directives and actions of the regulator including muzzling the media.

The UPPA President, Moses Mulondo while addressing journalists at Parliament said that the appointing authority should rethink Mr. Mutabazi’s appointment noting that it was a big mistake on his side to entrust him with that responsibility.

“He doesn’t understand the watchdog role of the media. He has no clue on the fact that journalists are the eyes and ears of the public,” said Mr. Mulondo.

“The earlier Mutabazi is relieved of his duties the better for the media industry. If the president doesn’t sack [Mr.] Mutabazi, it will mean he enjoys and sanctions Mutabazi’s actions,” Mr. Molondo, noted calling upon professional associations, Parliament, the civil society groups, development partners, and religious leaders to ‘condemn the open attack on the media.

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