Broadcasters oppose guidelines for Uganda’s 2021 general elections

Press Freedom
The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Uganda (FCAU) has always been concerned over a series of abuses aimed at journalists covering Uganda’s general elections.

Kampala, Uganda |URN | Broadcasters are protesting the proposed guidelines issued by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC ahead of the 2021 polls. The broadcasters describe the guidelines as unfair, saying they were never consulted by the regulator.

The guidelines cover political advertising, equitable access to talk-shows, equal coverage to candidates and media sponsorship on both private and public media during the election period.

According to the guidelines, stations are required to provide time to presidential and parliamentary candidates with access to morning, lunchtime and nighttime shows.

However, the stations may turn down a request to run adverts for local government candidates. The guidelines also require the station to provide equal opportunity to a candidate once their rivals appear on the station. The guidelines also bar stations from offering preference or discriminating against any candidate or political party.

It also says that candidates are entitled to the lowest unit charge of the station for the class, amount of time and period they wish to purchase at a station. The guidelines also bar stations from selling spots to candidates during the news.

Broadcasters oppose guidelines for Uganda's 2021 general elections
Journalists covering an event

Collin Mutambo, the General Manager of Radio Simba says the guidelines are unfair given the fact that media houses have different operational costs.

Francis Edward Babu, the proprietor Metro FM in Kampala says radio station has various products to offer to politicians in 2021 campaigns which are dictated by the market forces of demand and supply.

Innocent Anyole, the station manager Busoga One FM in Jinja city faults UCC for disregarding the input from media houses during the formulation of the guidelines.

“Issues of detailing pre-program content and contracts signed are an invasion of privacy and an attempt to deny information,” says Anyole.

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Innocent Nahabwe, the Deputy Chairperson National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), says they contributed to draft guidelines but didn’t receive feedback to harmonize the proposals. He says the decision of the government to make decisions on their behalf doesn’t favour their market and audience.

Paul Bukenya, the Electoral Commission Media and Public Relations Manager says they discussed the guidelines with the NAB, UCC and Media Council and advised media houses to design a uniform rate card.

Moses Watasa, Commissioner Information Dissemination in Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, says the guidelines will be released by November 2020.

He says they arrived at the guidelines following numerous complaints that some broadcasters deny opposition politicians from accessing the media during campaigns.