Media Rights Activists Condemn Suspension of 3 Baba TV Journalists

Photo Courtesy of Minister Persis Namuganza

The media rights cctivists have condemned the Uganda Communication Commission –UCC for allegedly forcing Baba Television to suspend its three journalists over a satirical show about Parliament censure of minister for lands, housing and urban development, Persis Namuganza, over misconduct and contempt of parliament.

Sarah Bireete, a human rights defender and executive director Centre for Constitutional Governance and Haruna Kanaabi, a researcher, veteran journalist, and media freedom activist have said Parliament and UCC action was irrational since the journalists Simon Muwanga Lutaaya, Adam Kungu and Lukia Mpoza, used their platform to depict what had exactly happened and general conduct of Parliament.

On Monday this week, 348 legislators voted in favour of a motion censuring Namuganza and after the committee that was set up to investigate the misconduct allegations against her found her guilty of violating the oath she took regarding the respect and protection of the dignity of the August house.

MP Mwine Mpaka, who led the committee that investigated Namuganza said that matters raised against her following the several interviews she had with media houses were obnoxious, reckless, insufferable, beyond the pale and in per incuriam.

A day after Namuganza censure, Lutaaya, Kungu, and Mpoza, used their show to satirically extol parliament for solving Uganda’s biggest problem. The trio said with Namuganza’s censure, Parliament had solved issues regarding lack of medicine in hospitals, poor schools and bad roads.

Yesterday Baba TV management issued a statement that it had received complaints from some sections of Parliament of Uganda and UCC in regard to satirical clip by their Gangamuka show crew a day after Namuganza had been censured.

“The complainants perceived the clip as demeaning, mocking and ridiculing the institution of Parliament, its leadership and the honorable members. As a station committed and accountable to its viewers, management has since reviewed the show, and taken internal measures to avoid a repeat of the same in the future including suspending the crew,” Baba TV statement read in part.

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Bireete said that Parliament complaining to UCC and the regulator’s swift action shows that the gaging of speech is no longer within in Parliament but it has extended to the media industry. She said UCC needs to always take time to assess claims being made against a media house but also limit itself on issues where it needs intervention or not.

Rebecca Mukite, the acting UCC head of communication, said as the regulator, they usually advise the complainants to express their dissatisfaction by writing to the media house. Mukite said whatever action was taken by Baba TV against its staff it was their choice but no influenced by UCC.

Kanaabi maintained that whatever opinions the journalists expressed using their platform was not different from what was said by hundreds of people on social media. He adds that if the suspension of Baba TV journalists is not condemned, it will make other media practitioners to stop satirizing issues yet it is part and partial of journalism practice.

“The consequences is that people will fear to give people platform to share their opinion. We should stand by our journalists. There are so many people expressing their opinion about the element of Busoga. Others were saying they were being harassed. What was so hurting that UCC had to come in so fast? It has (suspension) a chilling effect,” Kanaabi said.

In 2019 when Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine was appearing in Buganda road court, UCC ordered for suspension of 39 journalists claiming that their live reporting of court events was inciting violence.

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