UCC, UJA main case slated for hearing this afternoon

By Sania Babirye
Hearing of the main application in which the Uganda Journalist Association UJA is challenging the 30th April Uganda communication Commission directive suspending head of programming, producers and News managers of 13 media houses is expected this afternoon.

The application will be heard by Kampala high court judge Lydia Mugambe.
On the 22nd of May this year, Justice Lydia Mugambe issued an interim injunction stopping media houses from implementing the said of suspending 39 journalists until final determination of their case

Justice Mugambe noted that if the directive is not stopped it will impact the rights of journalists.

She further stated that although she has put into consideration UCC’s regulatory mandate, she says that the mandate should mot be uses to curtail the human rights and freedoms of the media.

She ruled that much as she is mindful of the regulatory mandate of UCC and national security , the two cannot be used as excuse to tamp on human Rights.

Justice Mugambe also wondered why a case of possible incitement of violence was reported to UCC and not the Directorate of Criminal intelligence of Police.

She described the said directive as a rush decision that was undertaken by UCC and also dismissed the resolutions that were reached up in the meeting by UCC’s with media house managers that took place on the 7th of May 2019.

In the said meeting it was resolved that the 39 journalists merely step aside instead of being suspended until the investigations are complete.

But justice Mugambe stated that the said resolutions are meant to defeat justice because there was an already pending case in court filed on the 2nd of May 2019 .

Following the court injunction, the said suspended journalists who had been ordered to step aside from their duties as producers, Head of newsrooms, production and programming following resumed their duties until court orders otherwise.

However UCC has since then filed a notice of appeal in the court of appeal saying they are dissatisfied with justice Lydia Mugambe’s ruling.

UCC lawyers led by Abdul Salam Waiswa and Mastiko told justice Mugambe had asked court to not issue the interim injunction on grounds that if the interim injunction is issued, it will undermine UCCs Authority to regulate Media houses.

These then asked court to matain the directive of the alleged 39 journalists to be given other roles until on going investigations are complete.
The journalist body(UJA) however maintained that the UCC directive is disproportionate, excessive, unconstitutional and that in doing so UCC exceeded the powers vested in the media council.

Through its two members, Bwire Arnold and Henry Byansi, UJA wants UCCs directive set aside by court.

According to the duo who calls themselves Human rights activists and advocates of the rule of law among other things, the UCC directive was unfair and unjust since UCC did not act fairly yet by law its mandated to be fair and just.

These claim that UCC is using the said directive to gag the mrdia,curtail free speech and freedom of expressions, impose unconstitutional limitations on the media.

These further claim that the said limitations are not acceptably and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society and what is provided for under the constitution and the law.

According to the petitioners, “The aforesaid directives interfere with editorial freedom and independence of the media by purporting to set arbitrary and unconstitutional standards which are neither enshrined in the Constitution nor in the laws of Uganda generally.”

The duo say that the famous UCC directive infringes on the rights of both media houses and journalists to be heard, presumption of innocence until proved guilty and the Right to equality under the law on top of curtailing journalists rights to practice their profession and the right to fair and just administrative treatment .

The directive is also said to be very discriminating, oppressive , highhanded, arbitrary, illegal and contravenes the constitution and the law in general.

These are now asking the high court to declare the directive null and void because it is not only illegal but biased, irrational and unfair among others.

They are also seeking an injunction against UCC from proceeding in taking any action against the said media houses as per the directive.

They are worried that if court does not restrain UCC, UCC will freeze and stagnate the citizens right to information, freedom of propagation and interchange of ideas and dissemination of information which is very essential in enlightening and educating the public, formation of citizen opinion on matters of of public concern.

They further state that is court does mot restrain UCC, the rights of manu journalists will continue to be trampled upon since UCC regulates media houses.

The petition follows a 30th of April order by UCC in which it ordered 13 media houses including capital FM and its sister station Beat FM to suspend its head of news and programing and producer or failure to do so face losing their licenses.

UCC also suspended three journalists from NBS TV however, following a meeting on that day with the National association of broadcasters, UCC reascended the said suspension and instead asked the said journalists to step aside to allow on going investigations into their alleged unethical behavior to be completed.

The journalist were suspended following their coverage of the the arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi wine as he was going to the CID offices at Kibuli on the 29th of April 2019.

The media houses affected included Capital radio and its sister radio beat FM.