The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has asked the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Uganda Media Council (UMC) to give clarity on President Museveni’s impending weekly presidential addresses during the current campaign period and the campaign addresses.
Last week, the senior Presidential Press Secretary, Don Wanyama communicated that every Sunday at 7pm, there will be a presidential address live on all media houses.
This made sections of the public and opposition leaders to suspect that Museveni plans to use those “weekly presidential addresses” to campaign, since presidential election campaigns are underway.
Speaking at the press briefing of stakeholders in media on the guidelines on use of media during election period which took place at UCC headquarters in Kampala on Wednesday, the NAB chairman Kin Kaliisa said it was hard for media houses to differentiate between a presidential address in the middle of election campaigns and campaigning, and called on communication regulators, UCC and UMC to give an interpretation on the subject.
“We are in a middle of a campaign. One of the candidates is also a President of this Republic. It might be hard for these media houses to differentiate between what would be a campaign address and a presidential address,” he said.
It should be noted that electronic media houses are required to relay presidential addresses like on Independence day, labor day, new year’s address.
Among the concerns being raised by the media owners is that at 7pm, most of the broadcast media houses are having bulletins, and 60% of their revenue is from news broadcast.
“All major advertisement is done around news. So, if they forfeit that every Sunday is going to be a big risk. So, we need clarity,” he said.
In response, the chairman of Uganda Media Council, Paulo Ekochu advised the media houses to cooperate.
“The office of the President remains the office of the President and the holder of that office continues to enjoy the benefits that ordinarily are attached to that office. Remember the office of the President is set up by law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kaliisa also called for clarity on the guidelines set by UCC to be followed by media houses while covering contenders of Political offices.
“One is the area of interpretation. How do you interpret these guidelines? When you talk of fairness, what is fairness? There are 11 candidates. These media houses, with the resources they have, in this pandemic that we have today where the resources have been reduced by 80%, I don’t think these media houses will have the resources to cover equitably or fairly to give them (candidates) equal media space in their news. It is hard. We will take it but how you interpret it will be another issue.”
“So, if you are to revoke licenses, you are going to revoke many. These are guidelines but we need to think how we interpret them,” Kaliisa told UCC Executive Director Irene Kaggwa.
Further, Kaliisa called on security agencies to always identity journalists especially during riots so that they don’t become victims of protests.
“Some of our journalists have been traumatized and beaten by political activists and in some incidences some security people have also been involved in harassing our people (journalists).”
Kaliisa was referring to police spokesperson Fred Enanga who was in attendance said, “comrade Enanga, we need to make sure that as these journalists do their work, they are secure, protected and you need to communicate to all security agencies.”