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ELECTORAL REFORMS: UBC Managers to Face Jail Time for Denying Opposition Coverage

The national broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Cooperation and its managers are to face financial penalties and jail term for to failure give fair and equal coverage to all presidential candidates in the general elections.

According to the proposed electoral reforms tabled by Government on the floor of Parliament last week, failure to adhere to electoral laws will land the broadcaster a maximum fine of 500 currency points (Shs 10m).

New subsections (1a) and (1b) are being introduced to reinforce the Presidential Election Act Section 24 (1) which says candidates shall be given equal treatment on state owned media.

“Section 24 of the principal Act is (should be) amended by inserting immediately after subsection (1); (1a) A State owned media house that contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points,” says part of the amendment.

Also, the responsible UBC manager or supervisor present during the offense shall be fined 24 currency points (Shs 480,000) or jailed for a maximum of one year or given both punishments.

“(1b) An officer responsible for a State owned media house who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both,” said another part of the Bill.

The Principal Act Section (1) of the Presidential Election Act says “All presidential candidates shall be given equal treatment on the State owned media to present their programmes to the people.”

The Supreme Court ruling of 2016 presidential election petition filed by Amama Mbabazi, concluded that UBC did not give fair coverage to opposition candidates like the one accorded to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. One of the Supreme Court recommendations was the amendment to reinforce the presidential election act.

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In February 2018 opposition figure Dr. Kizza Besigye won a case against UBC for not running his campaign adverts in 2011 even when the former had paid Shs 21m. The court presided over by Justice Margret Ogulion also awarded Besigye Shs 80m in damages.

The electoral reform amendments have been referred to the committee of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for scrutiny.

UBC editorial policy however prioritizes the president and even during campaigns he or she remains the head of state.

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