UGANDA: Government appeals CBS ruling

The government is appealing a recent court decision that dismissed a counter suit it filed against the Central Broadcasting Station (CBS), which was shut down in September 2009 on allegations of inciting violence.

In an August 26 notice of intention to appeal, the Attorney General (AG), informed the High Court that government was dissatisfied with the ruling. The AG sought leave from the High Court to consult the Court of Appeal on whether “the Government never had a case in the counter-claim for breach of the Electronic Media Act”.
“We are seeking the resolution of the second court to determine whether the High Court was right to throw out the Government counter-claim,” the notice read.

On September 10 2009, the Broadcasting Council shut down and revoked the licence of CBS for allegedly using it to “mobilise and incite the public and sowing seeds of hatred among Ugandans” leading to the death of more than 27 people during the riots that followed a standoff between the central government and the seat of the Buganda kingdom. CBS is owned by the Buganda Kingdom.

Over 100 CBS employees later filed a lawsuit asking court to declare the revocation of radio station’s licence “unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, null, and void”. The employees also sought about Shs 3 billion in compensation, arguing that the “unjustifiable” closure had rendered them jobless.
However in February 2010, the government also filed a counter suit seeking to compel CBS to pay aggravated damages for allegedly mobilising and inciting the public into violence and rebelling against lawful authority.

On August 20, High Court Judge Vincent Zehurikize threw out the government’s suit with no costs to CBS. He said that authority to take disciplinary action against any media house lies with the Media Council and not the government.

The AG now wants the appellant court to determine whether the Government had a right to file a suit seeking damages from CBS for its failure to abide by the minimum broadcasting standards under the media Act.

The AG argued that its counter-claim was “a matter of law of great public importance that requires judicial opinion of a second court”.
It is yet to be confirmed when the Court of Appeal panel of judges will sit and determine the matter.


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