KAMPALA – The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee has revealed plan to summon the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to provide answers to a number of queries raised in the 2017 Uganda Human Rights Commission related to violation of rights of journalists.
The development followed a decision by the Committee to throw out UCC’s team led by Fred Otunu, Director Cooperate Affairs in retaliation by Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi who snubbed the meeting but declined to communicate his absconding of the meeting officially.
The Legislators accused Mutabazi of undermining the importance of the Committee meeting yet he was informed about it ten days ago and questioned why he didn’t take the courtesy to write an official communication to the committee chairperson on reasons for his failed attendance, instead of sending his juniors with verbal communication.
Mr. Otunu alongside Head of Strategy and Planning, Andrew Otim simply informed the Committee that Mutabazi wasn’t in position to attend because of a board meeting he had to attend at UCC, a statement that angered MPs led by Committee chairperson Jenifer Egunyu Nantume , Latiff Ssebagala (Kawempe North), Joseph Ssewungu, Monica Amoding, Abot Ouma, Godfrey Onzima who resolved to throw away the team arguing that they could not ably answer the various queries as raised by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) in its 2017 report as well as the current prevailing issues surrounding the media and suspension of individuals hence the meeting had to be canceled until further notice.
Among the issues that UCC is supposed to explain are the blockage of digital services such as the internet that is considered both national and international human right.
Ms. Egunyu said: “So that kind of invitation if the Executive Director wasn’t going to come, he would also reply in writing but not just delegate people to come without any written document. To us it was so unfair, it was like he didn’t respect the Committee and we saw he couldn’t answer the questions like the ED himself.”
Mr. Otunu conceded their fault for failure to officially communicate to the committee and dismissed claims that UCC despises the committee saying; “We do accept that we should have communicated in writing which we didn’t and for that matter, we concede that we could have communicated in advance the inability of the ED not to attend this meeting.”
Ms. Egunyu also revealed that the Committee is set to interface with various bodies that bring together the media fraternity including National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Uganda Journalist Association (UJA) and Human Rights Network for Journalists –Uganda (HRNJ-U) to appear before the committee to lodge their concerns before another meeting with UCC can be reconvened.
She explained: “We have resolved as a committee that we have to meet the National Association of Broadcasters so that before they come, they air out their views, they show us how their rights are being violated that is when they are going to invite UCC to come and update us on the current issues and the report of 2017.”
Ssewungu emphasized why they insisted on having Mutabazi show up in person arguing; “Why we need him, there are decisions he is making that are going to cost Government if they are taken to court. For example, if you dismiss a worker at a radio or TV without the consent of the worker, the employer is going to sue UCC and at the end of the day, the damages will go to Government because of mistakes by one individual who thinks he is very proud at the cost of Government.”
The development comes at a time when UCC recently issued a statement ordering 13media houses to suspend 39journalists over their coverage of Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi accusing them of giving undue prominence to an individual.