Uganda government advised on freedom of expression and assembly

Delegates from the Europe Union, United States and Heads of Mission from different countries have issued a joint statement condemning a move by Ugandan authorities to suspend several journalists over allegations of breaching minimum broadcasting standards.

On Monday, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), a media regulator ordered the suspension of 39 staff members from 13 broadcasting stations including TV and radios.

The Commission cited “breach of minimum broadcasting standards” as the main reason for the suspensions in a statement released on Monday.

“The Uganda Communications Commission (The Commission) has directed the suspension of Producers, Head of News and Head of Programmes in the following broadcasting stations; Akaboozi FM, BBS TV, Beat FM, Bukedde TV, Capital FM, CBS FM, Kingdom TV, NBS TV, NTV, Pearl FM, Salt FM, Sapientia FM and FM”. Read part of the statement.

It added “This follows concerns over the nature of content aired on these broadcast stations particularly during live programmes, breaking news, and main news bulletins which do not comply with the minimum broadcasting standards.”

However, this came immediately after the mentioned broadcasting stations had broadcasted in full coverage the arrest and remanding to prison of MP Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, and the move to suspend the journalists involved was seen as a punishment for that coverage. Kyagulanyi was later released on bail after spending four days in Luzira prison where he had been sent on charges concerning “abuse of statutory duty”.

In their joint statement, the diplomats called upon the Uganda government to respect the rule of law and allow all Ugandans to exercise their basic democratic rights.

The annual report released by Reporters Without Borders titled “World Press Freedom Index of 2019 that was published recently indicated that Uganda has declined in ranking regarding press freedom. The report shows that Uganda has dropped by 8 positions currently at number 125 compared to last year’s 117 out of the 180 ranked countries worldwide.

Cases involving security officials brutally arresting, beating and torturing journalists and other Ugandans while covering news and attending several events respectively have become so evident in Uganda of recent.

The Uganda Police and other security agencies accuse the victims of violating the Public Order Management Act that was enforced by parliament in 2012.

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