The Association of Uganda Tour Operators has petitioned Uganda Communications Commission to closely monitor information flow so as to limit negative publicity about Uganda, which they said hampers not just their business but the economy.
The association, whose acronym is AUTO, represents more than 200 members, who operate tour companies engaged in attracting tourists for safari and other attractions in the country.
“When something negative goes viral, it affects our business,” said Everest Kayondo, the association’s chairman who led a delegation of five members to the UCC head office at Bugolobi on Wednesday, 28th August 2019.
Describing it as a cash cow for the country, Mr Kayondo pointed out that tourism is currently Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner, with an estimated 1.8 million tourists recorded every year and $1.4 million earned.
At the Commission, Mr Kayondo, who was flanked by the association’s Chief Executive Officer Ms Gloria Tumwesigye, had a two-hour engagement with senior UCC officers led by Mr Andrew Otim, the acting Director of Corporate Affairs.
Mr Otim welcomed AUTO to the Commission and expressed concern about their predicament. He said UCC was doing its best to check harmful information in electronic and online media, pointing out that during an earlier meeting with online media owners, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive Director, had emphasised responsibility in news dissemination, more so in the context of tourism.
Mr Meddie Kaggwa, the UCC Head of Multimedia, told the visitors that it was a mammoth task monitoring over 5,000 programs on both radio and television running concurrently every single day, with 300 radio stations, over 40 TV stations and 24 million mobile phone subscriptions all with the ability to create content.
Nevertheless, Mr Kaggwa said the Commission is making an effort to regulate communications as mandated by the law and using constructive engagment, which he said is beginning to bearing fruit.
He added, however, that there is a need for a mindset change among Ugandans who tend to look for the negative in everything, giving an example of the revived Uganda Airlines and the adverse comments it was getting on social media.
On his part, the Head Public and International Relations, Mr Ibrahim Bbossa, suggested that the Commission could facilitate a meeting between AUTO and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to make their case for responsible media coverage.
He added that where the association feels particularly aggrieved on a matter regarding the communication’s sector, they should willingly file a formal complaint to allow for due process and let UCC investigate and take necessary action where necessary in line with established legal and regulatory frameworks.
To uphold standards in broadcasting, UCC is charged with enforcing broadcasting standards in accordance with Section 31, Schedule 4 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.
The standards call for the promotion of responsible broadcasting and protection of consumers to reduce undue harm and offence, among other principles.
Undoubtedly a multi-billion cash cow, tourism is nevertheless a very delicate sector that is prone to sudden upheaval based on events such as disease outbreak, violent protests and conflict, among others. This can be exacerbated by the tone of the media coverage.