By Andante Okanya
Traditional healers under umbrella body Uganda N’obuwangwa Bwaffe Limited, have petitioned court, challenging the advertisement ban imposed by regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
On June 27, they filed an application for judicial review at the civil division of the High Court in Kampala, protesting UCC’s directive to media houses on the ban.
The contentious directive was published in the New Vision edition of Thursday March 27, 2014.
The umbrella body comprises traditional healers, herbalists and birth attendants.
Judicial review is conducted by the High Court to scrutinise proceedings plus decisions taken by subordinate courts, inferior tribunals or government bodies.
All media houses, both print and electronic, were instructed to halt publication of adverts promoting services of the various traditional healers, citing witchcraft.
Media houses were cautioned that failure to heed would attract penalties and sanctions in accordance with the law.
But through Centre for Legal Aid, the traditional healers contend that the directive is imprecise, as it encompassed genuine traders of the umbrella body.
“The impugned directive is vague and ambiguous in so far as it fails to define ‘witchcraft’, ‘witchdoctor’ or ‘traditional doctor’,” the petition states in part.
Adding: “The impugned directive is overly broad, overreaching, and unfair as it tends to put traditional healers, herbalists and birth attendants in the same bracket as the so-called practitioners of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘fraudsters’, thus failing to separate wheat from chaff.”
The application is supported by the affidavit of the umbrella association secretary general, Ssewaya Kiwanuka, who asserts that they were not consulted prior to the directive being effected.
He states that UCC should have instituted investigations on the unscrupulous individuals of ill-repute who abuse the laws of Uganda.
Kiwanuka also contends that the directive was an abuse of the right to freedom of expression, and an insult to the government policy of promoting indigenous medicine, complementary and natural health care therapies.
UCC is yet to file its response. A hearing date is yet to be fixed.