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UCC to appeal High Court decision barring them from investigating suspended journalists

Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director at the Uganda Communications Commission. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Uganda Communication Commission, (UCC) the communications sector regulator, has confirmed plans to appeal against High Court ruling that overturned a controversial decision to suspend 39 journalists from 13 media outlets.

The UCC late last month 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 had 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 accused 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 suspension stemmed from live coverage of events that included activities of budding opposition figure, Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

However, the High court in Kampala last week issued a temporary injunction restraining UCC and its agents from enforcing a directive issued on April 30 to 13 media organizations to suspend at least 39 journalists.

High court Justice Lydia Mugambe, ruled that UCC’s directive was illegal since it contravened with the journalists’ rights of freedom of speech, expression, publication among others all enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda

Mugambe also said that it is unacceptable for security agencies to continue using vague, wild claims of “national security breaches” as a magic word to violate people’s rights.

Mugambe wondered why UCC didn’t report the accused media houses and journalists to police if they violated any law.

UCC was dragged to court in two separate suits filed by UJA and city lawyers Byansi and Bwire who argued that the directive to media houses to immediately suspend 39 journalists pending conclusion of the investigations was an infringement on the constitutional rights of the journalists.
However, the journalists through their umbrella Association, UJA demanded an interim order stopping UCC from implementing the directive.

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

Mr. Waiswa and the UCC legal team will Tuesday, May 28 at Midday file their appeal against the High Court ruling at Court of Appeal on Tweed Towers.

Details to follow shortly

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