Journalists drag UCC to court over suspended colleagues

Wednesday May 8 2019

Uganda Communications Commission executive

Uganda Communications Commission executive director Godfrey Mutabazi (2nd left) shares a light moment with members of the National Association of Broadcasters led by its chairperson Kin Karisa (2nd right) after a meeting in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

By Julieth Kigongo

Kampala.  The Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) has dragged the Uganda Communications Commissions (UCC) to court seeking to stop its directive to some media houses to suspend at least 39 journalists for allegedly violating broadcasting standards.

UJA, a professional body that brings journalists together and fights for their professional rights, in its application filed before the High Court in Kampala, seeks a temporary injunction to restrain the directive suspending the producers, editors and heads of programme from 13 media houses before the main case challenging the same is heard.

In its main case, the journalists’ body is challenging “UCC’s disproportionate, excessive, unconstitutional and arbitrary exercise of statutory powers, violation of media freedom, freedom of speech and expression, human rights of media workers and the right to know of millions of Ugandans.”

“UCC’s directives interferes with editorial freedom and independence of the media by setting arbitrary and unjustifiable standards which are neither enshrined in the Constitution nor in the laws of Uganda generally,” reads the court documents, in part.

UJA avers that the respondent (UCC) has, and, or threatens to usurp the powers vested in the Media Council through its directive that the 13 media houses should within three days submit to the commission the names, particulars and qualifications of the producers, editors and heads of programme.

 

UCC accused

Meanwhile, last week, two lawyers, Ronald Bwire and Henry Byansi, petitioned the same court accusing UCC of targeting media stations for airing content, especially live broadcasts, of breaking news in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public.

They also want court to check UCC’s excessive powers against the media in order to ensure respect of media freedom and adherence to the rule of law and constitutionalism by other government agencies.

Justice Lydia Mugambe is set to hear this application tomorrow even as it emerged on Tuesday that UCC is insisting that the journalists must step aside for one month to pave way for investigations. (NMG)