Broadcasting Council warns on walk-to-work coverage

The Uganda Broadcasting Council (UBC) has warned broadcasters it would take “appropriate action” against any media house that airs material deemed to promote the culture of violence, ethnic prejudice and public insecurity, emerging details show. Under the ‘Minimum Broadcasting Standards’ of the Electronic Media Act, broadcasters or video operators are required to ensure that programmes they air do not promote violence, are not distorted and are in compliance with “the existing law”.

Quoting that law, UBC interim board chairman Godfrey Mutabazi told broadcasters last week that several complaints had been received about the manner in which some of them were reporting the walk-to-work demonstrations, especially in Kampala.

Some broadcasters, Mr Mutabazi said, were “portraying the events in such a way as to compromise public security.” “We have held discussions in respect of these broadcasts with different broadcasters generally,” Mr Mutabazi wrote in his April 15 letter. “This serves therefore as a caution to all broadcasters to be impartial and factual in their reporting, to avoid being sensational and to ensure balance in the way broadcasts are portrayed.”

Several radio and television broadcasters this newspaper spoke to yesterday said while Mr Mutabazi quoted the law correctly, they were, however, anxious that it can be interpreted selectively. “It is a bad law,” a director of one broadcaster told Daily Monitor. “We were instructed not to air footage in real time. Unless the current law is changed, the regulator can stop us,” he added. And in other developments, Mr Mutabazi said yesterday that another letter dated April 14 from the Uganda Communications Council (UCC) to telecom and Internet service providers had been misinterpreted. He added that the UCC, which he also heads, would release a statement soon explaining exactly what they intended to convey when the Internet service providers were on Thursday asked to “block the use of Facebook and Tweeter (sic) for 24 hours as of now; that is April 14 at 3.30pm to eliminate the connection and sharing of information that incites the public”.


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