Regulator warns NTV on breach of minimum standards

Uganda’s broadcast regulator has instructed NTV Uganda to stop featuring in its programming the crude language of commentator Frank Gashumba, or else be found in breach of minimum broadcasting standards.

In a 10 October 2016 directive that came to light this week via social media, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) says that it had received repeated complaints about Mr Gashumba’s language.

“The investigations conducted by the Commission have found that the profane and abusive language used during the programme is in breach of section 29(a) and section 31 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, and doesn’t deserve to be on the airwaves,” reads part of the statement that was addressed to the NTV management.

Section 29(a) of the UCC Act states: “The holder of a licence or a producer of a broadcasting station or disseminating apparatus shall— (a) ensure that what is broadcast is not contrary to public morality.”

Section 31 requires broadcasters or video operators to ensure that what is aired “is not contrary to public morality”, “doesn’t promote violence of ethnical prejudice”, is free from distortion of facts and is not likely to create public insecurity or violence, among other provisions.

The statement doesn’t make reference to the specific programme(s) broadcast by the station and doesn’t elaborate how many times the breach was done.

On his Facebook page, where he has notable following and often posts blunt opinions on politics and everyday life issues, Mr Gashumba explained the origin of the problem.

“In September this year, NTV hosted me as a guest analyst on the station’s evening Luganda news bulletin, ‘NTV Akawungeezi’ to basically give an analysis of a topic that was decided by the NTV’s news department,” he writes.

“As usual, I am always plain and clear and give my views, opinions and analysis…I am not a factory, I do not sugar-coat anything; if you ask for my opinion, that is what you get…my head is not powered by anyone. If I was meant to be controlled, I would have been created with a remote control.”

Mr Gashumba appeared on a series of Akawungeezi news programmes to proffer opinion on a range of issues. And NTV lawyers are now reviewing the episodes to establish whether the law was violated.

“As NTV Uganda we always endeavour to meet the minimum broadcasting standards and all the laws of the land,” said the station’s head of news, Mr Maurice Mugisha. He added that the station would write a response to UCC soon.

The regulator in its directive warned that further breach could lead to cancellation or revocation of NTV’s license. “Please take notice that further repeated breach and violation of the law will result into the commencement of cancellation or revocation of your license in accordance with section 41 of the Uganda Communications Act. Stand Warned.”

In November 2015, UCC issued a similar warning to nine media houses (radio and TV stations) to stop hosting former presidential press secretary Tamale Mirundi or risk having their licences revoked.

The Commission, according to a report in Daily Monitor, stated that Mr Mirundi was using abusive language on air, but the presidential advisor on media said: “That is rubbish. I am an advisor to the President.

 

Side Bar: Mr Gashumba’s Facebook followers react to the UCC directive

Mayanja Mayanja wrote: “Mr Gashumba, my elder! UCC is a regulatory body, and I think it’s doing some of its mandated duties when they call for order in that way. It is very clear that you are abusive, they cannot just look on and see you misbehave! Secondly, Uganda is a free country but our rights have limits for a purpose that our neighbours at law don’t get caught up or affected. Either way, you have remedies if you feel that you are aggrieved. Let’s all put Uganda First.

Namanya Evalisto said: “I salute you Mr. Gashumba! The image of our country has been tarnished by such people who continue to infringe on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Ugandans as enshrined in the constitution. As long as they continue to do so especially on the media then we have to pray for our country because one day they will learn the implications. The media is a watchdog for both the government and its citizens. No government whatsoever can run without the media because it plays a fundamental role on both social, political and economic aspects. Therefore, you should not be intimidated, keep on truck. This country is in the hands of its citizens.”

Albo Rees said: UCC is doing its work. I have no problem with it. ABS TV used to show nude and highly sensitive stuff and was stopped…I’m sure NTV and Gashumba are not above the law…I’m sure NTV as a company will find ways to clear it up since it hires sensible paralegals but you Gashumba, it will take u years to understand.

Asonyu Ekukulerut Ame Alere wrote: “I can’t believe how low mis-managers of this country have gotten to! We must name and a shame these idiots who are using public institutions to advance selfish and dictatorial agenda. Enough is enough. Take this to court.”

Harriet Anena

Harriet Anena is ACME’s Special Projects Officer hanena@acme-ug.org @ahpetite

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