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Uganda: Is UCC Going Rogue?

Photo: Jimmy Siya/The Impartial

MPs hostile to the deletion of Article 102 (b) from the Structure sing at Parliament days sooner than their protest degenerated into a brawl (file Picture).

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Kampala — What, in reality, is the mandate of the Uganda Communications Fee (UCC)?

On its face, UCC’s mandate appears clear; it is the united states of america’s communications regulatory agency. It’s supposed to advertise and protect the pursuits of shoppers and operators on quality. Then Again, there is a growing view that UCC does no longer have the criminal mandate to do One Of The issues it has been doing as a substitute. Critics level out that the gap free of charge speech is shrinking for the reason that state uses the legislation selectively to resolve what can and can’t go.

The subject has turn out to be so pressing that the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, State Authorities and State Businesses (COSASE) has it on its agenda.

A member of the committee, Medard Lubega Sseggona, who is the MP for Busiiro South, says as quickly as there may be probability, COSASE will summon UCC officers to provide an explanation for why they are engaged in certain actions that look like out of doors the company’s mandate.

He advised The Impartial in an interview that UCC has moved beyond law to develop into a repressive agency and mentioned incidents by which UCC has blocked social media access, stopped media properties from masking certain political events, and both closed or threatened to close media shops that give a platform to opponents of the ruling NRM party.

“What Mutabazi is doing is in impact criminal,” Sseggona says in reference to Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC government director, “the rate at which UCC is denying Ugandans get entry to to data and professionals the best to apply their exchange is alarming and deplorable.”

The Human Rights Community for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-U) also says it is going to courtroom to are looking for interpretation on the mandate of UCC.

Robert Ssempala, the HRNJ-U National coordinator advised The Unbiased that his organization is reacting to UCC’s Contemporary directive to media properties to forestall live proclaims of MPs replacing punches on Sept.26 in parliament.

“We have no idea if they’re doing this deliberately or there is drive in the back of them However one factor is for sure; what UCC is doing is basically improper; It Is unlawful and illegitimate,” Ssempala told The Impartial.

Tempers flared in Parliament on Sept.26 over a controversial movement to delete Article 102 (b) that limits the age of presidential candidates from the Structure.

Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, was once compelled to hastily adjourn the house after opposition MPs disrupted Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, from moving a motion on disposing of the presidential age restrict. The Pro-age restrict MPs sang and made other noises for with reference to 20 minutes throughout the Parliament Chambers except Kadaga sent the home packing.

Safety personnel entered the chambers and dragged rowdy MPs out once they attempted a repeat tomorrow. Regardless Of Mutabazi’s ban on reside broadcast, photography of MPs being battered, combating with microphones, and throwing parliament furniture at every other had been beamed world wide.

UCC’s minimal broadcasting standards in regard to violence and crime state that any tips that justice will also be carried out By Using violence, vigilante motion, or other manner of taking regulation enforcement into one’s personal palms; must be evaded. Any exceptions must have in mind the context and redeeming values. Such depictions of violence may just frighten, unnerve, unsettle or invite imitation, especially from children.

Broadcasters react

Fred Otunnu, UCC’s director of Company Affairs informed The Unbiased that are living coverage of situations is supposed to be managed differently to avoid putting out undesirable content. UCC says broadcasting brawls By Means Of MPs incites the public, is discriminatory, stirs up hatred, and promotes a culture of violence amongst the viewers. It Is likely to create public insecurity or violence.

Otunnu says broadcast houses everywhere in the world have tools that prolong relay of such content material By Way Of a micro-second.

“That micro-second is important in broadcasting,” he mentioned because it helps in editing out scenes that are not desirable for viewers’ consumption.

“The UCC directive was once a reminder for broadcasters to put into effect that,” Otunnu says.

The UCC wrote in its directive to broadcasting homes: “The Fee hereby directs all broadcasters to straight away cease and chorus from broadcasting are living feeds which are in breach of the minimum broadcasting standards and the very best apply tips for electronic media protection/reporting and broadcasting of are living occasions.”

It delivered: “The Fee would now not hesitate to carry out enforcement for non-compliance with these tips and any further breach will lead to suspension and revocation of your licence in accordance with Part 41 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.”

However some media executives had been in disagreement with the ban saying Parliament is a public area and will have to, due to this fact, be opened to are living media announces.

In a letter dated Sept. 29, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) spoke back to Mutabazi’s letter announcing freedom of expression is a cardinal concept enshrined In The Structure of Uganda below Article 29.

“It’s A undeniable fact that live broadcasting does now not depict falsehoods However somewhat is an account of fact: It Is our view that the messenger must not endure the brunt of one of these factual message for which the general public has a Right to look and listen to.”

“We Are yet to look (and we welcome the same) evidence of incitement, as alleged, bobbing up from these live proclaims, with an introspective view of the other mediums to which the general public is exposed the place violence is a staple feature (motion pictures, tv programmes and stage plays).”

“As you may recall in 2011, NAB entered into a memorandum of understanding with the UCC with admire to are living broadcasting.”

The broadcasters’ Association had additionally acquired complaints from its individuals who operate upcountry harassment, intimidation and in excessive circumstances, closure Through the government operatives.

The letter referred to that the memorandum exact the manner and behavior broadcasters would implement in overlaying live occasions additionally noting that the broadcasters had diligently obliged to the memorandum which will have to continue guiding their operations.

Targeting opposition

But UCC has also targeted opposition legislators in alternative ways. Probably The Most hit seems to be celebrated musician Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, who is the new Kyadondo East MP.

Media properties, allegedly performing on orders or cues from UCC, have blocked him. On Sept.28, for instance, he used to be scheduled to seem on NTV’s political discuss exhibit ‘instant’ However was once blocked. On Sept. 30, he was imagined to be on Capital FM’s ‘Capital Gang’ But he was additionally blocked.

“I was once later knowledgeable that the radio used to be directed With The Aid Of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and received phone-calls from Safety operatives not to host me,” Kyagulanyi posted on his Facebook page, “I was once known as Via other radio and TELEVISION stations and so they validated that they obtained the same order- with threats that if I Am hosted, they risked being closed.”

Oskar Semweya-Musoke, the Capital Gang host explained to his target market for Kyagulanyi’s absence with this tweet: “We obtained cellphone calls that stopped us from website hosting @HEBobinwine on #CapitalGang as of late.”

Kyagulanyi used to be one of the crucial opposition MPs evicted from parliament over the melee that erupted all through the tabling of Magyezi’s Personal Member’s Invoice to lift the presidential age restrict.

Kyagulanyi has seemed to be targeted By Using UCC considering he gained a By Means Of-election in opposition to the tip of June as an Independent MP and right away adopted anti-President Yoweri Museveni rhetoric.

There Have Been even rumours that UCC had instructed radio stations to not play his newest hit, ‘Freedom,’ which allegedly fans violence among the many public as it calls upon Ugandans to rise up because saving “Our nation is a responsibility of every person the kids of Uganda.”

He sings about how, “Ugandans are fed up of people who oppress our lives (sic) and the whole lot that takes away our rights.”

One Of The lyrics translated from Luganda, a extensively spoken native dialect are: “Uganda appears to be shifting backwards; get up chums because we know that saving our nation is a duty of anybody the kids of Uganda.

“No Matter your age, sex, faith, and tribe; skilled or uneducated, this is a revolution; whether you are a doctor, farmer, instructor, policeman, lawyer, soldier, taxi driver or student, Ugandans In The Diaspora or bodaboda rider, rise up and don’t surrender.”

But Pamela Ankunda, the head Public Relations at UCC, informed The Unbiased on Nov. 10 that UCC has now not banned Kyagulanyi’s song because the company’s mandate does not go that a ways.

“We control content material and not people,” she stated.

She mentioned all UCC has carried out is remind broadcasters of their liability in case their platform is used to air content material which are opposite to the regulations and minimum broadcasting laws.

“That could be very totally different from announcing, don’t host this person on the debate exhibit,” she said.

Even Supposing UCC had banned the song, Kyagulanyi has already vowed to not appreciate its directives. He says the regulatory authority’s decisions depict double standards and bias. He mentioned artistes who sing songs that enhance the NRM regime are by no means barred from doing so.

“I’ve fundamental rights of singing and speaking about the rest with out in search of permission from any individual,” Kyagulanyi says.

Ssempala says UCC’s suspension of people from showing on certain media properties’ discuss shows is blatant abuse of their Right to expression.

“It’s under the influence of politicians who wish to shut up all voices of dissent and curtail the free drift of essential knowledge,” he says, “All that is overstepping their mandate.”

UCC’s earlier

Lately, UCC has blocked journalists from protecting the activities of putting doctors. Prior To Now, it has ordered media properties not to do reside announces of Walk-to-Work protests, the Kasese bloodbath during the assault on the palace of the Rwenzururu king, Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere ultimate November and the following trial early this yr. Within The February presidential elections, UCC blocked social media structures and cellular money networks. The shutdown remained in situation except the afternoon of Sunday, Feb.21 when President Museveni was declared winner.

The UCC stated get right of entry to to social media platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter and Fb by way of cellphones and the mobile money networks had been quickly blocked citing Nationwide Safety concerns all the way through the election period.

The telecom firm, MTN, demonstrated that UCC directed it to dam social media and cellular money services as a result of a threat to public order and safety. Critics say UCC’s mandate does not give it such powers.

The UCC’s main mandate is to keep watch over and develop the media in Uganda,” says Ssempala, nevertheless it has given that taken to controlling and limiting the media freedom.

“This Is complete abuse which is politically encouraged,” he says, “We do not want UCC to keep an eye on the media in a negative method,” he informed The Unbiased on Nov.13.

Sseggona also says UCC is harassing media houses By Way Of refusing to resume their licenses.

“As we Speak, 75% of media houses In The u . s . do not need valid licences because UCC wants to shut them on the slightest possibility beneath the guise of lack of valid licence,” he stated.

On the issue of delayed licenses, Otunnu told The Unbiased that the method has been sophisticated on account of transiting from analogue transmission to digital tv.

Media experts say Internet shutdowns and state violence go hand in hand. They Say shut downs disrupt the free flow of data and create a cover of darkness that enables state repression to happen without scrutiny.

Internet shutdowns–with executive ordering the suspension or throttling of entire networks, ceaselessly right through election or public protests–must never be allowed to transform the brand new commonplace.

Justified for public safety functions, shut downs instead bring to an end get admission to to critical knowledge, e-financing and emergency products and services, plunging entire societies into concern and destabilizing the Web’s power to reinforce small businesses, livelihoods and drive financial building.

Ssempala says UCC’s directives instill fear and scare the media from discussing current topical issues.

“Many People get away with illegal activity because UCC has prevailed over the watchdog (media) which is if truth be told supposed to put folks in place of accountability to account,” he says.

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