KAMPALA – Editors under their umbrella – Uganda Editors’ Guild (UEG) have also announced a ban on coverage of all government activities in protest of President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to ring-fence the government advertisements to the national broadcaster – Uganda Broadcasting Cooperation – UBC and Vision Group.
The Editors join the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) which earlier announced the same ban until the matter is resolved.
The directive, issued by President Museveni on March 6, 2023, and reinforced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Ramathan Ggoobi on July 10, 2023, mandates that all government advertising be channeled solely through the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and Print media through the New Vision.
The Editors say that this is so unfair and an attempt to get private media out of business since the government is the biggest advertiser.
“As advocates for freedom of the press and the rights of all Ugandans to access diverse and unbiased information, the UEG acknowledges and appreciates the planned meeting between the Executives of the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the President scheduled for August 10, 2023,” UEG said in a statement dated July 24.
They argue that the directive to exclusively utilise UBC and New Vision for government advertising infringes upon Article 21 of the Constitution of Uganda, which strictly abhors discrimination based on social, religious, and economic standing, among other criteria.
Such a move, according to UEG, is in violation of the liberalised economy trajectory adopted by Uganda in the 1990s, where public agencies are expected to compete fairly with the private sector for revenue and government business.
However, NAB announced that the President accepted to meet them where they hope to get the matter discussed and resolved.
“This is to inform you that we have received a letter from the Principal Private Secretary to H.E the President confirming a meeting between H.E the President and the NAB Executive on the 10th day of August, 2023 to find an amicable solution and we appreciate the gesture,” said Joseph Beyanga, NAB, Secretary-General.
Whilst they await the said meeting, NAB decided to maintain the status quo as follows;
The ban/blackout on the coverage of government activities, any government official and/or event will and still continues until a further communication is made after the said meeting with H.E the President.
“We are aware that there are NAB members with existing framework Contracts/Agreements with various government institutions that are legally binding, such contracts may continue and be implemented.”
They noted that the Government officials may be hosted at the media house’s discretion for purposes of balancing the news and panels only in compliance with respective editorial policies, and Minimum Broadcasting Standards and to give value to the audience, but not to communicate government projects, initiatives, campaigns and plans.
“There shall be no free airtime consideration on Radios, Online and Television stations to any government official across the country including RDCS, RCCS, LCs, etc.
UEG also wants the issue of transparency and accountability addressed.
They appealed to the government to abandon the directive and seek alternative solutions that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of government advertising funds.