By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has found five local media houses guilty of breach of the minimum broadcasting standards.
This follows the ongoing verbal exchange between senior presidential advisor on media Joseph Tamale Mirundi and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s son-in-law, who also doubles as the special presidential advisor, Odrek Rwabwogo who recently pinned Mirundi for defaming him.
Rwabwogo accuses the media houses of giving airtime to motor mouth Tamale Mirundi to make unsubstantiated statements against him and other prominent personalities in the country.
Now in the Commission’s ruling signed by Irene Kaggwa Ssewankambo, the Acting Executive Director of UCC, media houses including STV, ABS TV, Radio 4, Pearl FM, HG TV and an online blogger Kasuku Live, have been convicted of breach of the minimum media broadcasters’ standards especially section 31 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.
According to UCC, without reasonable cause, the above media houses allowed Mirundi to make false and biased statements against Rwabwogo accusing him of engaging in human trafficking, illegal human organ business and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money using his position as a son-in-law to a sitting president.
UCC further noted that it was wrong for the convicts to deny Rwobwogo a chance to defend himself on these allegations noting that disclaimers have no meaning as far as protecting the people who are using the media houses to breach the laws is concerned.
Consequently, the UCC has ordered the five media houses and Kasuku live to pay a total of sh5m to the Commission for breaching the minimum broadcasting standards and also retract the statements. UCC also ordered the affected Media houses to offer free airtime to Rwabwogo to clarify on his side of the story.
Whereas Rwabwogo demanded UGX 500billion in damages and UGX 50m legal costs for lawyers, UCC has advised that only a competent court can order the media houses to pay such money, not the Commission.
The UCC has further directed all media houses hosting Mirundi to cause him to sign an unconditional commitment before being hosted noting that this is meant to ensure that Mirundi complies with the minimum broadcasting standards and all applicable laws and regulations.
In their defence, the media houses insisted that they always make disclaimers once such allegations are made.
However, UCC dismissed their defence noting that broadcasters are liable for whatever is aired, played or reported or discussed adding that all broadcasters are expected to prepare all show guests and warn them against making statements that are not backed by documented evidence.
“It is irresponsible for any broadcaster to allow guests, reporters, commentators and callers to make unverified, unsubstantiated statements against others during broadcast programs,” UCC noted.
“Where an operator invites guests to participate in live or recorded programs, the broadcaster must ensure that the show host is professional and technically competent to restrain guests and other commentators against swaying into making unsubstantiated claims against persons that are errant of the program,” UCC further noted.