Infringing upon freedom of the media
Publish Date: Feb 19, 2014
  • mail
  • img

By Sheilla Atim

A recent directive from the Uganda Communications Commission warns broadcasters to “take extra care to be impartial and factual in their reporting” on South Sudan.  

In its letter, the UCC “cautions all media houses to adhere to the provisions of the… Minimum Broadcasting Standards,” which require that any program broadcast must “1) not be contrary to public morality; 2) does not promote the culture of violence or ethnical prejudice among the public especially children and the youth; 3) in the cases of news broadcast, is free from distorted facts; 4) is not likely to create public insecurity or violence; 5) is in compliance with the existing law” and “where a broadcast relates to national security, the contents of the broadcast are verified before broadcasting.”  The UCC ends its letter by saying that any broadcaster who fails to follow these standards “will be disciplined in accordance with the law.”

While the importance of preventing public insecurity, the culture of violence, and ethnic prejudice, among other goals, cannot be overstated, the UCC’s letter underscores fundamental concerns about the legal framework regulating the media in Uganda, and the way in which this legal framework is implemented.

One area of particular concern for the freedom of the media is the Minimum Broadcasting Standards, contained in the 4th Schedule of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.  Article 19’s analysis argued that the Standards do not meet international best practices in regulating the media because “the content rules found in the Schedule are extremely broad and vague and therefore wide open to abuse—not to mention the chilling effect they may have on broadcasters even before they are enforced.”

By including broad, vague language like “public morality” and “distorted facts” that allows considerable room for interpretation, the Minimum Broadcasting Standards provide huge opportunities for politically motivated interference in broadcasting.  Even the more detailed language that a broadcast “is not likely to create public insecurity or violence” may be subject to abuse, given the plethora of cases recently filed against journalists for incitement to violence, in instances where no clear incitement to violence was made.

To prevent infringement on the freedom of the media, the Minimum Broadcasting Standards should be amended to reflect the basic principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in a democratic society.  Where content is to be regulated by a Government body, clear and detailed standards should be established to prevent overly broad interpretation by regulators and political interference in broadcasting.  

To the greatest extent possible, as stated in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, “effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media.”  Taking into account these principles will promote a broadcasting content that serves the public interest and protects the freedom of the media.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Pope Francis in Africa: Leadership and Inspiration in the Face of Climate Change
THE Pope is in a unique position. As head of the smallest country in the world, his ability to legislate on climate change may have limited impact...
Climate change is here
Dear Pope Francis, Your visit to Uganda, which coincides with COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, comes at a crucial time, though, both for our country and the world...
After Paris
The attacks in Paris by individuals associated with the Islamic State, coming on the heels of bombings in Beirut and the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula, reinforce the reality that the terrorist threat has entered a new and even more dangerous phase....
Hypocritical response of “international community” to terror attacks
The months of October/November 2015 will truly go down in the annals of our global history as a period of unprecedented resurgence in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - instigated terrorist assaults....
Empower children in this holiday break
December holidays are just an inch away in Uganda. Primary seven pupils are already at home in their holidays. Senior Four and Six are equally winding up their school programs. The rest of the classes will soon follow suit....
Why Paris Climate agreement should block fossil fuels
By Boaz Opio Do you ever wonder why despite all efforts global climate change activism put in stamping out dirty energy productions, there seems to be a resisting, highly biased force halting governments’ renewable energy development efforts?...
Is Uganda ready for the pope's visit?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter