Evans Bagamunda, the Executive Director of Centre for Citizens Communications and Justice in Fort Portal cited incidences last year when UCC stopped radio stations from hosting opposition Members of Parliament yet radio and television stations were directed by UCC to broadcast President Musevenis New Year speech.
The Uganda Communications Commission - UCC has downplayed reports that its decisions are influenced by government. The body which is mandated to regulate telecommunications, broadcasting, radio communication, postal communications, data communication and infrastructure says all its operations are backed by the law.
Criticism of UCC's methods of work featured prominently at the 6th edition of the Communication Consumer Parliament held in Fort Portal municipality.
Evans Bagamunda, the Executive Director of Centre for Citizens Communications and Justice in Fort Portal questioned the credibility and independence of UCC saying that often times, UCC has taken sides with the government and contributed to stifling divergent views.
He cited incidences last year when UCC stopped radio stations from hosting opposition Members of Parliament yet radio and television stations were directed by UCC to broadcast President Museveni's New Year speech.
In October last year, UCC blacklisted 25 MPs who had been suspended from Parliament by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during the presidential age limit debate. UCC argued that by hosting the MPs, media houses were violating minimum broadcasting standards and inciting violence.
However, Fred Otunnu, the Director Corporate Affairs UCC, said that the commission operates within the law and are not under any influence. He explained that when UCC receives complaints, they carry out investigations before any action is taken.
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The communication consumer parliament was part of the activities to mark 20 years of existence of the regulatory body. The parliament is an interaction between consumers and service providers of communication services and products with an aim of developing the communications sector.
UCC was also accused of not doing much to rein on radio stations that advertise content related to advertising and promoting witchcraft. The participants cited some radio stations in Fort Portal which host witch doctors.
However, Otunnu said that they will collect recordings for investigations.
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Beatrice Mbabazi, a resident of Fort Portal says that radio stations which defy UCC's directives should not have their licenses renewed. She explains that the radios have connived with the witch doctors to fleece people especially HIV positive patients of their hard earned money, claiming they heal the disease.
In February, UCC directed proprietors of five radio stations to refund all money lost to fake witch-doctors on the radio. The directive followed investigations by the commission that the radios were advertising and promoting witchcraft contrary to Section 2 of the Witchcraft Act (Cap 124).