Kampala, 08/10/2019, Journalists through their umbrella bodies Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) and Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) together with other human rights activists under the Center for Constitutional Governance have asked Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe to compel the Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi to appear in Court to be cross-examined on the different directives and orders he issues out to media houses in Uganda.
The three groups are represented by lawyers Daniel Walyemera, Eron Kiiza, Micheal Aboneka, Bwire Ronald and Byansi Henry.
Kiiza told court that there is a need for Eng. Mutabazi to appear in person on 10th December, 2019, to be crossexamined in public interest over his actions as the communications’ body boss. The lawyers also want him questioned over the recently released report on the work of the 13 media houses.
However in response, UCC’s Lawyer Abdul Salaam Waiswa told court that Mutabazi can only come to court if the applicants make a formal application and the Judge orders him to appear in court. Justice Mugambe urged the two parties to work together to resolve the matter. UCC is also represented by Lawyer Joseph Matsiko.
Meanwhile, two City Lawyers Bwire Ronald and Byansi Henry have lugged UCC boss, Eng. Mutabazi, to the High court for contempt of court, and wants him imprisoned for allegedly defying a High Court order handed out by Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe.
They contend that on 23rd/May/2019 Justice Mugambe issued temporary orders restraining UCC, its agents, assignees and any person acting under UCC’s authority from implementing its directives dated 30th/April/2019 to the effect that 13 media houses suspend their employees including News editors, talk show hosts and producers, until the case filed by journalists, lawyers and human rights activists is predisposed.
They argue that in total disregard of the court orders and the principle of sub judice, on 7th/ October/2019, UCC went ahead to publish a report titled ‘Breach of Minimum Broadcasting Standards, Investigation Report, October 2019’, purportedly communicating the outcome of their investigations in regard to breach of the Minimum Broadcasting Standards by the said media houses. The lawyers say that the findings and recommendations contained in the said UCC report preempt the on-going case presided over by Justice Lydia Mugambe.
The matter was adjourned to 10th December 2019, at 2:30 pm (EAT) to commence with the hearing.
“This is a positive development in our pursuit for press freedom which we have no doubt is being crippled by the very regulator. We want a free and vibrant media envisioned by our Constitution and other regional and international treaties to which Uganda is a party.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director, Robert Ssempala