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Stopping Guests from Wearing ‘Red Beret’ on Air is Not Our Role, Says HRNJ-U’s Robert Ssempala

The National Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda (HRNJ-U), Robert Ssempala has today cautioned that deterring guests from appearing live on air with red berets shall open too big a can of worms for journalists and it also contradicts the media ethics and principles.

He made these remarks at the swearing in ceremony of the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) Executive that was held on Friday October 30, 2020 in Kampala.

Early this week, it should be noted that Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, while addressing the media owners at Mbuya, warned that Television stations who reluctantly allow guests with the ‘red beret’ on air shall also be held culpable.

However, speaking today; Sempala warned that taking on such a role is contrary to journalistic ethics and roles. Furthermore, he warned that journalists would be opening up a Pandora box that they definitely cannot solve.

“Media houses in their powers are not supposed to be clearing houses for security work. How are you going to force out a guest who puts on a red beret in studios?” Ssempala posed.

“How about if they tuck it in their coats and in the middle of the show, they put it on their heads? Are you going to terminate the show? Are you going to walk out of the studios, what is it that you are going to do?” Sempala further asked.

Concluding, he warned that the media risks losing relevancy by playing fiddle to such rules.

“Because if we start surrendering our powers, be sure that any day they are going to ask you for more radical bargains,” Sempala warned.

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Recently, NBS has found itself on the spot for hosting the National Unity Platform (NUP) Secretary General Lewis Rubongoya who hitherto insists that their ‘Red Top’ bears no resemblance to Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) paraphernalia.

Speaking at the same event, European Union (EU) Ambassador Attilio Pacifici noted with grave concern that to date some Presidential candidates are still denied airtime on state owned media. Pacifici, however, expressed optimism that perhaps this time round, the environment will be different owing to reforms in Uganda’s electoral laws.

“In this context, we welcome the Parliament’s approval this year of the changes made to section 24 of the Presidential elections act, which provides for stronger rules designed to ensure equal treatment of presidential candidates on state owned media,” he stated.

Any media station which unjustifiably denies a Presidential candidate airtime is liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred currency points or 10 Million shillings according to the above mentioned law.

On the other hand, journalists who on their own obstruct politicians from presenting their campaign programs are liable to a fine not exceeding twenty four currency points or 480,000 Shillings.

 

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