Thursday, April 29, 2010

Free imprisoned journalists in Eritrea - Exiled journalist demand

By HRNJ-Uganda News Team

Yonas Embaye holding a peaceful demonstration on streets of Kampala expressing free forthe lives of many journalists illegally detained in prisons. “About 30 journalists are still rotting in illegal detention centres in Eritrea,” he says, “I was lucky to escape. For six months we dug our way through a toilet wall, weakening the concrete blocks until it gave way.”Embaye, 29, is an Eritrean journalist seeking asylum in Uganda.

He is describing how in 2001 the Eritrean police swooped on the offices of the Hadas Admas newspaper in Asmara where he worked. They carted off all reporters and editors to a police station where they were interrogated and locked up for six months without being charged before a court of law.

He describes how they were divided into three groups and transferred to Adi Nefasit prison 10km from the Eritrean capital, Asmara.“It is very cold there. We were constantly tortured by sleep deprivation and were interrogated in very cold storage areas for fish. The sanitary conditions in the jail were unhygienic. My editor-in chief Said Abdelkadir died in this prison.” Embaye says that he and some other journalists were later transferred to an illegal detention centre located in an abandoned colonial gold mine. Here they were tortured in an apparent attempt to force them to sign a confession to subversive activity against the Eritrean government.

“We refused. They wanted us to sign those documents to use them for their propaganda. They did everything to us; they beat us, we were starved, electrocuted but we did not sign those documents. We were locked up with religious leaders and political prisoners.”
Embaye pulls sheet after sheet of creased paper from a battered folder file that has obviously been shown to numerous eyes, to back up his claims.

He says September 18, 2001, the day when the Eritrean government forcibly shut-down all private media houses, was the worst day of his life – that and his trials and tribulations as a journalist working for an independent media house in Eritrea. After spending close to three years in detention together with 13 other journalists, Embaye says he escaped together with two others. They wandered through the desert for three days and nights before they got to the Sudan border.

Eritrean border guards shot at them injuring Samuel, a church administrator, in the leg but they kept walking until they got to a refugee camp. “Samuel bled so badly but was strong. Unfortunately however, he died when we got to a refugee camp. He had a heart condition and had not eaten or drunk anything for over 72 hours.”

Embaye insists that the Eritrean government is against press and religious freedom. “Can you imagine that the head of the Orthodox Church is in prison?” he says. According to the International Human right organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the human rights situation in Eritrea has deteriorated over the years. Press freedom organisations like Reporters without Borders and the Community Protect Journalist (CPJ) have since registered 22 journalists still in prison in Eritrea since 2001. “Some of these journalists could be dead for all I know since prisons conditions are inhumane.We were in the process of forming a trade union for journalist. This is possibly why the government cracked down on private media and arrested us,” he says.

Embaye arrived in Uganda about two months ago from Khartoum, Sudan, where he had also sought asylum in 2005. He says he is on the run again – this time from the Sudanese government because of his human rights work in Sudan. While in Sudan, Embaye worked for the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development and participated in documenting human rights violations in refugee camps in Darfur. It is estimated that over 200, 000 innocent people have been killed and 2.5 million civilians driven from their homes in Darfur over the last four years.

The documentation Embaye worked on included testimonies from refugees and video footages depicting torture and the massacre of innocent civilians. This is part of the evidence that the International Criminal Court (ICC) used to indict Sudanese President Omar El Bashir. In March the Sudanese government suspended the operations of 52 humanitarian organizations operating in the Darfur area after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir. Embaye’s asylum application is being processed in accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act.
“We have many cases of people claiming harassment, persecution and political problems in their mother countries. Our job is not to push them away but to investigate and process these claims,” says David Apollo Kazungu, an officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Directorate of Refugees.

He says Embaye has been granted temporary stay only up to the time when his case is concluded. No details about Embaye could be got from the Sudanese Embassy.
Embaye speaks passionately about his nine-year quest for press freedom and human rights that brought him at logger heads with the Eritrean and Sudanese authority. He vows not to quit his cause until Eritrean president Isaias Afworki orders the immediate release of all detained journalists.

He wants Afworki to be made to respect press freedoms and basic human rights. “I will continue to fight for my collegues in prison until they are freed. The international community must compel the Eritrean government to release all journalist and religious leaders, re-introduce religious tolerance and free press.”

Gov't is seeking to Jealously gag the media under Press and Journalist amendment bill - HRNJ-Uganda

By HRNJ-Uganda News Team

HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK FOR JOURNALISTS-UGANDA (HRNJ-Uganda) a journalists' rights protection body has termed a new media bill as a "law of rule system" which the state want to use to gag the media. "Electronic media since its liberalization has been a target of the state since it was a source of information for majority Ugandans but this turn is for print and other medium" HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator G.W.Ssebaggala said. Principle VIII (1) of the African Declaration states: Any registration system for the print media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. How can you kill your own child you purportedly gave birth to just because you do not want that child to peep into the source-pan you're getting food from to serve them. Mr. Ssebaggala asked.

HRNJ-Uganda Argument


The Press and Journalist (amendment) Bill, 2010 was made on January 29th 2010. The Bill is aimed at amending the Press and Journalist Act Cap 105. The Bill is meant to provide for registration of newspapers; to require that the editor of a newspaper shall ensure that what is published is not prejudicial to national security; to rationalize the composition of the media council; provide for licensing of newspapers; increase the membership of the disciplinary committee; provide for expeditious disposal of complaints before the disciplinary committee; provide for offences and penalties and to provide for other related matters[1]. The provisions of the Bill have a potential to violate press and media freedoms and the freedom of speech as guaranteed under the Uganda Constitution 1995 and international human rights legislations. It is our belief that the provisions of the Bill be reconsidered to provide media freedom in an accepted free democratic society.

The draft Bill proposes to make changes to the composition of both the Council and the Disciplinary Committee. If implemented, the Council would consist of the following members: a chairperson, appointed by the Minister (a new addition), a senior official from the Ministry, one, instead of two, mass communications scholars, still appointed by the Minister in consultation with the Institute, a representative nominated by the Uganda Newspaper Editors and Proprietors Association, a new representative of private sector newspapers, two representatives of the electronic media, two representatives of the National Institute of Journalists of Uganda, only two members of the public who are not journalists, both appointed by the Minister, and a lawyer now appointed by the Minister in consultation with the Uganda Law Society (section 4 of the Bill, amending section 8 of the Act). The Council would thus comprise 12 members, six of which were appointed by the Minister, only two of which required consultation with other bodies. Both the chairperson and the secretary would be directly appointed by the Minister. As a result, the control of the Minister over the Council would be substantially increased.

Section 7 of the draft Bill would amend section 30 of the Act, stipulating the composition of the Disciplinary Committee, by adding five new members, in addition to the six Council members already on the Committee. Specifically, it would add a lawyer nominated by the Uganda Law Society, a representative of private sector newspapers, two members of the public who are not journalists, and a mass communications scholar, appointed by the Minister.


The need for bodies with regulatory powers over the media to be independent has been noted. Given the Council’s draconian powers, including directly to license journalists and indirectly to control the Disciplinary Committee (even under the new proposed rules),

this is particularly important. Instead of bolstering the independence of the Council, the new proposals actually undermine it.

Increasing the composition of the Disciplinary Committee as proposed would slightly enhance its independence. However, depending on how the two members of the public are to be appointed (which is not clear and this may be by the Minister), potentially only two of the now eleven members would come from outside the Council and be appointed by civil society groups. This is clearly insufficient to ensure the independence of the Committee.

Control of News Paper

The most significant, and alarming, changes proposed in the draft Bill are in relation to the registration and licensing of newspapers. Section 5 expands the powers of the Council to include registering and licensing newspapers. Pursuant to section 2, newspapers would be prohibited from operating unless they have been registered by the Council. The Bill does not elaborate any requirements or procedures for registration.

Section 6 of the Bill further requires newspapers to be licensed by the Council and imposes harsh sanctions for breach of this rule. The considerations to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to issue a licence to a newspaper include whether it has access to adequate technical facilities and the “social, cultural and economic values of the newspaper”. A refusal to grant a licence shall be in writing and provide reasons, and may be appealed against before the High Court. Licences are valid for one year and may be renewed. They may also be revoked, for breach of a number of vague content rules (see below).

Section 5 of the Bill also gives the Council the power to regulate investment in the print media sector, as well as to regulate foreign investment in the sector, including by “limiting the involvement of foreign media in the print industry”. Neither of these powers is subject to any formal constraints.


International law recognises that licensing of broadcasters is necessary, if only to prevent chaos in the airwaves, but it rules out licensing of newspapers. It even regards registration systems for the print media with great suspicion. Principle VIII (1) of the African Declaration states:

Any registration system for the print media shall not impose substantive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.

And the 2003 Joint Declaration of the special mandates on freedom of expression states:

Imposing special registration requirements on the print media is unnecessary and may be abused and should be avoided. Registration systems which allow for discretion to refuse registration, which impose substantive conditions on the print media or which are overseen by bodies which are not independent of government are particularly problematical.

Registration of the print media is unnecessary and may be abused, and, as a result, is not required in many countries. Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) recommends that the print media not be required to register. Under international law, a technical registration requirement for the print media may not breach the guarantee of freedom of expression as long as it meets the following conditions:

  • there is no discretion to refuse registration, once the requisite information has been provided;
  • the system does not impose substantive conditions upon the media;
  • the system is not excessively onerous; and
  • the system is administered by a body which is independent of government.

The proposed licensing system for newspapers clearly breaches these rules. The issuance of licences is dependent upon the discretion of the Council, and includes vague and highly subjective criteria such as social, cultural and economic values. Licences may also be revoked for breach of equally vague and subjective content rules. These problems are enhanced by the fact that newspapers must apply for their licences on an annual basis. This is effectively a repressive and discretionary system for banning undesirable newspapers, which is completely illegitimate.

It is unclear what the registration system for newspapers might consist of, and so it is not possible to assess it against the standards set out above. It may be noted, however, that the Council is not an independent body. Furthermore, the good faith of the government in imposing a registration requirement has to be questioned given that it has unnecessarily been layered on top of a very repressive licensing system.

Some regulation of print media ownership may be necessary to prevent undue concentration of ownership in this sector, or between this sector and broadcasting. However, the powers of the Council to regulate both local and foreign investment in the print media sector are completely undefined and are not even linked to the objective of preventing undue concentration of ownership. Furthermore, the rule on foreign ownership suggests an overall suspicion of foreign involvement, as opposed to some more legitimate social goal. Although excessive foreign control may be a matter of concern, in general, foreign investment can be a very important source of funding, as well as of expertise and access to foreign content, for media outlets.


· The proposed licensing system for newspapers should be removed from the draft Bill.

· The proposed registration system should either be removed entirely, or completely revised to bring it into line with international standards, including by making it clear that the Council has no discretion to refuse to register a newspaper.

The powers of the Council to regulate investment in the print media sector should either be removed entirely or constrained to pursuing legitimate objectives, such as the prevention of undue control by one individual over the print media sector.

Content Regulation

Section 3 of the draft Bill would add to the functions of an editor, as spelt out in section 6 of the Act, the obligation to ensure that nothing “prejudicial to the national security” is published. Section 9 of the Bill would add a new section to the Act making it a crime to publish material that is “prejudicial to national security or stability and unity or utterances that are injurious to relations between Uganda and her neighbours or friendly countries.” It would also make it a crime to publish material that “amounts to economic sabotage”.

Section 6(7) of the draft Bill sets out a number of grounds for revoking a newspaper’s licence. These include, once again, publishing material that is “prejudicial to national security, stability and unity” or to “Uganda’s relations with new neighbours or friendly countries”, or that “amounts to economic sabotage”. A licence may also be revoked for breach of any condition contained in it, regardless of how minor the breach may be.


The obsessive focus in the draft Bill with protecting national security is immediately apparent. This is an undefined term which is simply too vague to be legitimate as a restriction on freedom of expression, let alone to serve as the basis for a non-independent administrative body such as the Council to revoke the licence of a newspaper. Newspapers should be free to engage in reporting or criticism on matters relating to national security. In most cases, such criticism actually enhances security, as it is often only when problems are exposed in this way that they are taken seriously by security officials.

The references to relations with other countries and economic sabotage are equally problematical. It is often actually a professional obligation for newspapers to publish information in the public interest which governments may deem to harm relations with foreign countries or be injurious to the economy. This might include the exposure of corruption, mismanagement of the economy or even the simple fact of an increasing rate of unemployment. It is clearly not legitimate to prohibit the publication of these types of information.

Furthermore, to the extent that it is legitimate to criminalise the dissemination of information – for example, hate speech – this should be done through a law of general application rather than a media specific law. If an interest is worthy of criminal protection, it will need to be protected against all forms of dissemination, not just publication in the media.


All content restrictions – including those referring to national security, relations with other states and economic sabotage – should be removed from the draft Bill.


The draft Bill provides for a number of harsh sanctions for breach of its provisions. Pursuant to section 2, anyone who operates a newspaper without registering it may be fined up to 48 currency points, set by Schedule 1A at 20,000 shillings (a total of approximately USD445), and/or imprisoned for up to two years. Pursuant to section 6(9), operating a newspaper without a licence or in breach of a licence condition would attract the same sanction. Section 9(3) also provides for the same sanction for publishing the material prohibited by that section, while section 6(7) provides for licence revocation for publishing prohibited material.


These are excessively harsh sanctions for breach of provisions which are, of themselves, as described above, illegitimate. As noted, the system of licensing and revocation of licences envisaged by the draft Bill would allow for extensive government control over any newspaper which it did not favour. A prison sentence of two years simply for operating a newspaper in breach of any licence condition, which might be something relatively minor, also cannot be justified.


The system of sanctions in the draft Bill should be substantially revised so that it only provides for proportionate sanctions for breach of legitimate rules.

Journalists body opposes BC and UCC merger

By HRNJ-Uganda team,

HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK FOR JOURNALISTS-UGANDA (HRNJ-Uganda) a rights body for journalists in Uganda has opposed the merger of Broadcasting Council (BC) and Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) saying it does not only the respective governing laws but the constitution of the Republic of Uganda

HRNJ-Uganda calls for opposition from journalists saying the action would give the state more powers to gag all medium channels in Uganda including internet.

"We are considering taking the minister in-charge of ICT (Aggrey Awori) to court for usurping powers of the parliament of Uganda" HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator G.W. Ssebaggala said.

HRNJ-Uganda argument.

The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and the Broadcasting council are both statutory bodies created under the Communication Commission Act (Cap 109) and the Electronic Media Act (Cap 104) respectively. The two bodies are charged with independent and complementary roles.

The UCC is a body charged with regulating the communication industry, through issuing of radio, TV and telephone frequencies, licensing telephone operators, monitoring the use of frequencies and generally regulates the communication sector. On the other hand the Broadcasting Council is mandated to regulate the electronic media industry mainly licensing radios and TVs, monitoring the broadcasting standards and providing for effective administration and regulation of radio and TV broadcasting.

Its important to note here that whereas the UCC has mandate to issue frequencies, it does not have mandate to issue an operational license for a TV or radio. The UCC cannot control what is broadcast and the standard of broadcasting generally. On the other hand the UCC has powers over all modes of communication including postal, electronic and others as a regulatory and licensing body while the BC is only limited to electronic media.

On 15th March 2010, the minister in charge of communication made a directive to have the two bodies merged following a cabinet decision. However, the merger of the two bodies is not only a violation of the constitution and media laws in Uganda but also may lead to violation of human rights in Uganda generally.

The Legality of the Merger

Basically the merger is a violation of the two laws creating the two bodies and is also a violation of Uganda constitution. By merging the two bodies the minister and cabinet are purporting to amend the two laws which provide for the two bodies a role which only belongs to parliament under article 79 of the constitution.

S.12 of the UCC act provides that the commission shall be independent. This means the commission shall not be interfered with either by the minister or anybody. Merging the two bodies is a direct violation of this independence.

Under S.6 of the UCC Act, (also S.9 of Electronic Media Act) members of the commission are appointed by the minister with approval of cabinet. The minister’s directive as it appeared in the Uganda gazette does not show any vetting and approval of member of the council. The same section provides for a council composed of 8 members a fact that is not considered in the ministerial directive.

Both laws provide for ground and procedures under which members of the two bodies can be removed. The proposed merger has an effect of moving members of the two bodies without following the due process of the law and this violates principles of natural justice and fair hearing laid down under article 42 of the Uganda Constitution.

The supremacy of the constitution and requirement for its implementation

The notice by the minister is not the effect that the minister is acting under the directive of the president exercised under article 99(1) of the constitution. The article provides;

“The executive authority of Uganda is vested in the president and shall be exercised in accordance with this constitution and the laws of Uganda

The article is to the effect that the president works in the accordance with the constitution and the laws of Uganda. Actually article 99(3) makes it a duty for the president to abide by, uphold and safeguard the constitution and the laws of Uganda and to promote the welfare of the citizens and protect the territorial integrity of Uganda

Article 2 of the Uganda constitution provides that the constitution is the supreme law of Uganda and shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout Uganda and any law or custom in inconsistent with the constitution void. By making the above order, the president is not only violating the constitution but also laws made there under

The Uganda constitution creates different organs charged with different roles. The organs are separate and independent from each other. These are; parliament with legislative powers (article 79), the executive with administrative powers (Chapter 7, Article 99 and 111). Under article 111 (2) the function of the cabinet is to determine, formulate and implement policy of the government and to perform such other functions as may be conferred by the constitution or any other law, From the foregoing cabinet therefore works based on the requirement of the law.

The directive by the minister violates article 79 of the constitution that provides that parliament has the power to make laws on any matter for peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda and that no person has powers to make a law except under an authority granted by an act of parliament.

By ordering to merge two bodies established by an act of parliament, the minister is attempting to amend an act of parliament which is in direct violation of the above article. The minister is well acting outside the requirement of article 111 as seen above. The merger between UCC and BC can only be done by an act of parliament amending the existing laws and providing for such a merger.

The proposed merger on the other hand brings key human rights issues. The merger will result in making the transitional body a judge, prosecutor and witness in its own cause. The UCC and BC are mandated to handle issues of conflict resulting from use of communication or the media. The present structure will result into the body complaining being the one charged with adjudicating the matter which violates principles of fair trial as set out in article 28 and 42 of the Uganda constitution and the rules of natural justice.

We also concerned that the proposed chairperson of the interim body Eng. Dr. A. M. S. Katahoire was not vetted by cabinet as required by the law. As a result his appointment violates the procedure set out in the UCC Act and Electronic Media Act. The same person is not a fit and proper person to chair a body charged with mediating in conflicts between government and media houses since he owns a media house (Voice of Kigezi) which runs a radio station in western Uganda


  1. Cabinet should reverse the minister’s directive and ensure the two bodies are running as set up the law. The cabinet should respect the independence of the two bodies as set out in the laws establishing them
  2. Parliament and the Uganda Law Reform Commission should review the laws on UCC and BC to remove the existing ambiguity and conflict in the two laws. Specifically the law should be made clear on the allocation of frequencies, licensing of electronic media and communication systems. The law should also be clear on the independence of the BC which is ambiguous in the existing law
  3. Government should maintain the existing regulatory bodies as set out in the law; however the law should provide for an independent and impartial mediatory body responsible for mediating conflicts in the industry. The body should take the judicial role and should not be subject to the control of any body. Effectively, sections of the law making the BC and UCC as mediatory bodies should be repealed.
  4. CSOs should advocate for reform of the media law. In the last 2 years Uganda has seen an increased move to curtail media freedom through draconian laws. CSOs should step up efforts to advocate for fair and equitable laws that promote media freedom in Uganda
  5. In failure to implement the above (1 to 111); CSOs should consider petitioning the constitutional court for an order reversing the present trend.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lubigi wetland under attack

By Venex Watebawa

The rate of degradation at the only remaining wetland Lubigi has alarmed environmental conservationists with the degradation standing at 42% compared to the national average of 30%.
A research conducted by AROCHA Christians in nature conservation an international organisation in Uganda reveals that by 1995, Lubigi wetland occupied 498 hectors and has since reduced to 85 by 2009.

As the world marks the international earth day, Uganda is focusing at the restoration of wetlands especially around Kampala which have been invaded in the names of development.
Conservationists are still left with hope that nature one time will deal with those who have taken it upon themselves to deplete wetlands.

Kampala is currently left with Lubigi as the only wetland with papyrus and it regulates floods from the surrounding areas joining river mayanja before entering river Nile.

According to the director A Rocha Christian in nature conservation Uganda, Sarah Kaweesa if line government departments the National Environment Management Authority NEMA and the wetland conservation department at the ministry of water and environment dose not apply the legal instruments, Lubigi wetland is likely to be no more by 2015.

By 1995 wetlands covered slightly above 13% of the total land surface and currently they have been reduced to 9% as the degradation rate continue to increase with areas of Kampala and eastern Uganda have lost over 50% according to Dr. Henry Aryamanya Mugisha the director of NEMA.

New rear bird spices including the Wood sand piper, papyrus gonelek, white winged warbler, marsh tchagra and magpie manikin are among the birds occupying the wetland. Two rear visiting migrant birds the wood sand piper and raff were also discovered in the wetland today.
Officials from nature Uganda said that efforts need to be stepped up to save the wetland so as to develop bird watching tourism in Kampala and specifically in Lubigi.

The number of birds so far discovered in the Lubigi has risen from 59 adding to 61 spices and of which 9 spices are listed as endangered spices by the CITES of which 3 birds are endemic to papyrus swamp habitat.

In a related development, the efforts to clean up the Lubigi water channels, efforts were frustrated as locals offered to open up channels but KCC Rubaga division could not send the garbage trucks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Court adjourns open air radio talk-show case

Court Adjourns Open Air Talk-show (Bimeeza) case

Hearing of a case in which Uganda’s Broadcasting Council Chairman Godfrey Mutabaazi is expected to account for the banning of open air talk-shows has flopped.

Mutabaazi was summoned by high court judge Vincent Zehurikize to explain the ban imposed on open air radio talk shows commonly known as Bimeeza.

The open air talk-shows had been ran by many public and private radio stations as far as 2000 to provide platform to all members of the public to enhance their participation in the governance issues and holding their leaders accountable.

The ban which was communicated to the public by the minister of information, Princess Kabakumba Matsiko via radios and televisions and followed by a press release signed by the chairperson of the Broadcasting Council stated that “the shows were becoming difficult to manage no technical grounds saying, these programmes usually live broadcasts made in a hall and not in a studio”

He was dragged to court by Rubaga Division councilor Bukenya Church Ambrose who argued that the government was wrong to ban the open-talk shows saying, it was intended to gag the public, which he called a breach of the right to freedom of speech and free media guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

Eraisha Bafiirawala who represented the attorney general told court that Mutabaazi was stuck in London and asked an adjournment.

Court adjourned the case for hearing on 8th/July/2010

For more information Contact;

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Plot 16 Clement Hill Road Nakasero
P.O.Box. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala – Uganda
Tel: +256-414-667627 / +256-701-810079
Visit our Website:

Judge want Central Broadcasting Service case settled out of court

Court gives government a deadline over closure of Central Broadcasting Service (CBSfm) case.

High court judge Vincent Zehurikize has given government up to 17th/May/2010 to show commitment of settling out of court a case filed by CBSfm employees challenging the closure of the radio.

Over 102 CBSfm employees dragged Broadcasting Council to court challenging the closure of the radio arguing that the closure was unlawful and purported to revoke its license. They further contest council powers used to execute the closure contrary to the Electronic Media Act or any other applicable laws.

During the case’s third hearing today, Justice Zehurikize for the second adjourned the case to allow all parties to settle the case out of court. Zehurikize directed the attorney general chambers to talk to its clients (Broadcasting council) and make formal proposals which should be shared with plaintiff lawyer before 17th May 2010.
“You must come to my chambers on that day with something done, failure I will start the battle” Justice Zehurikize said. I must explore all possibilities of mediation and resettlement.

Broadcasting Council arbitrarily and excessively switched off five radio stations including CBSfm in the aftermath of September 10th, 11th and 12th riot. Three stations have since been re-opened.

He wondered why government was reluctant to resettle the matter out of court which is cheap, modern and easy. “In a civil matter the winner-loser situation is not pleasant” Justice Zehurikize stressed saying both CBSfm and government need each other. CBSfm is supplementing government’s work of educating and informing the public as well as paying taxes to government.

Employees led by Florence Luwedde argue that the forceful and alleged confiscation of CBS assets on 10th September 2009 was contrary to Electronic Media Act where Broadcasting Council has no legal right to withdraw license.

They are seeking compensation in damages and lose of over 8 billion shillings.

Fore information Contact

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Plot 16 Clement Hill Road Nakasero
P.O.Box. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala – Uganda
Tel: +256-414-667627 / +256-701-810079
E-mail: Visit our Website:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Uganda's Broadcasting Council Chairman is before court over banning Open air talk-show program

Uganda’s Broadcasting Council chairman is to appear before court over banning open air radio talk shows (Bimeeza)

The chairman of the Broadcasting Council (BC) Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi is expected to appear before court on Tuesday the 20th/April/ 2010 to explain the ban imposed on open air radio talk shows commonly known as Bimeeza.

Mutabaazi who banned Bimeeza on 11th September 2009 was summoned by the high court judge Vincent Zehurikize to account for his actions and give reasons to that effect.

This followed a petition filled by Bimeeza beneficiary Bukenya Church Ambrose who argued that the government was wrong to ban the open-talk shows saying, it was intended to gag the public, which he called a breach of the right to freedom of speech and free media guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

The open air talk-shows had been ran by many public and private radio stations as far as 2000 to provide platform to all members of the public to enhance their participation in the governance issues and holding their leaders accountable.

During the open air talk-shows, several persons would gather in any place outside the studio of the radio stations and publicly exchange views on any topic including politics, religion, commerce, culture, sports and the like and the exchange of views is broadcast live.

The ban which was communicated to the public by the minister of information, Princess Kabakumba Matsiko via radios and televisions and followed by a press release signed by the chairperson of the Broadcasting Council stated that “the shows were becoming difficult to manage no technical grounds saying, these programmes usually live broadcasts made in a hall and not in a studio”

Section 2(2) used to justify the banning of the talk-shows requires the applicant to provide proof of existence of adequate technical facilities, location of station and geographical areas to which broadcast is to be made and social, cultural and economic values.

The applicant’s lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi said he applied to court to summon Mutabaazi to be cross examined on the affidavit he swore in support of the ban. “I think it is necessary for Mutabaazi to appear court to give account a detailed explanation as to why the talk-shows were banned” Rwakafuuzi added. We also want him (Mutabaazi) to come to court on 20th/04/2010 and tell court where he derives his powers from.

Bukenya contends that the ban violates the right to freedom of expression under Article 29 (1) of the Republic of Uganda which states that every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and the media; to have freedom of thought, conscience and belief which include academic freedom in institutional of learning, to have freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition and freedom of association which shall include the freedom to form and join associations or unions, including trade unions and political and other civic organisations.

He wants the ban on talk-shows lifted.

For more information Contact;

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Plot 16 Clement Hill Road-Nakasero
P.O.Box 71314 Clock Tower Kampala-Uganda
Tel: +256-414-667627 / +256-701-810079
Or visit our website: