Media Owners Pledge Access For All Candidates Ahead of 2021 Elections

  • by Rodney Mponye
  • July 14, 2020

Media owners under the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have assured the Electoral Commission (EC) that they will not increase airtime fees for candidates who will be campaigning using their platforms.

In a meeting with the EC on Monday, Mr Kin Kariisa, the NAB chairperson, said they asked all media houses to provide their rate cards to enable them arrive at a minimum amount to charge the candidates.

“The prices might go a little higher for the prime time programmes; otherwise, we shall have a low amount for all candidates. We shall not increase the amount for the airtime just because of the fact that the media will be at the centre of all this campaign,” Mr Kariisa said.

Uganda airwaves are occupied by 310 radio stations, 39 television stations and about 50 online media outlets, according to Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) figures released early this year.

UCC figures also show that 60 of these platforms are owned by politicians, most of whom belong to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Last month, EC rolled out a revised roadmap, banning public campaigns and instead proposed virtual campaigns. Many people have expressed worry that equitable access to the media will be hard.

Mr Kariisa said they have agreed with UCC to waive Section 31 of the UCC Act in case the regulations are breached by media owners.

“We know what is happening and we have discussed it to see how all people can get enough airtime to all media platforms. Anyone who contravenes the law, the authorities will bring him to order,” he said.

Among other things the broadcasters discussed with EC was the brutalisation of journalists, which has been on a rise especially during campaigns, and asked the commission to pay for some candidates who cannot afford airtime.

In response, Justice Simon Byabakama said they would engage the ministry of Finance to see if they can be given the cash for the same under their earlier requisition on the Covid19 budget.

“We are going to talk to the police and other security agencies as we have always done to make sure they protect the lives of the journalists. With paying for the candidates, it is a good suggestion and we shall also table it before the finance and when the money comes we can see how to distribute it equitably,” Justice Byabakama said.