INVESTIGATION REPORT ON ALLEGED BREACH OF THE MINIMUM BROADCASTING STANDARDS-Approach to Investivation

APPROACH TO THE INVESTIGATIONS

To achieve the above objectives, the investigation team undertook the following activities:

  • Analysed the complaints raised and reports received.
  • Obtained recordings of all the news programmes, current affairs shows and live broadcasts that were aired by the respective broadcasters on the 29th of April 2019.
  • Reviewed the provisions of the law including the Uganda Communications Act 2013, specifically schedule 4 on the Minimum Broadcasting Standards, Penal code, and the Press and Journalist Act.
  • Reviewed the license terms and conditions for all radio and television operators.
  • Reviewed the written submissions made by the respective broadcasters, including their recordings.
  • Visited the studios and broadcasting stations for the respective broadcasters and interfaced with staff found on duty.
  • Conducted meetings with all the affected broadcasters, in the presence of the presenters, producers and other technical and management staff.
  • Reviewed files of the respective operators to ascertain their previous compliance history.

In the course of the investigations, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) sought audience with the Commission regarding the directive to have the respective employees of the affected media houses step aside pending conclusion of the investigations. In its letter dated 2nd May 2019, NAB stated that the Commission’s directive would have adverse effects and that if implemented, it would:

a) Undermine the quality of journalism in Uganda by creating fear amongst individual journalists;

b) Weaken the standards and controls already established by the respective media houses and amplify the risk that led to the commission’s intervention; and

c) Compromise the opportunity for dialogue between the Commission and broadcasters based on the past relationship.

In the meeting of Tuesday 7th May 2019 between the Commission and NAB, the following positions were agreed upon:

  1. That the Commission clarifies that “suspension of certain individuals by the Broadcasters” as captured in the letter of 30th April 2019, did not mean that the broadcasters should suspend the employment contracts of the respective staff.
  2. That the directive meant that the producers, heads of news and editors of the respective programmes were only required to “step aside” from their roles in the impugned programmes. This was deemed necessary in order to avert the potential absurdity that could have arisen if the same staff, whose programmes were being investigated, continued to produce, edit and oversee further broadcasting of the same programmes. More breaches could have been occasioned;
  3. That the directive to require the respective producers, editors and heads of news to step aside from their roles would take effect by the close of business on Tuesday 7th May 2019; and
  4. That the personalities required to step aside were individuals acting in the respective capacities during the impugned programmes on the 29th of April 2019.
  5. That the stepping aside was never intended to be permanent but only temporary during the period of the investigations.

It is also worth noting that following the commencement of the investigations, a number of media rights activists and members of the public filed four applications in the High Court Civil Division seeking for among others, interim orders to restrain the Commission from enforcing the directive to require producers, editors and heads of programmes to step aside from their respective roles. Others also sought orders to restrain the Commission from conducting the investigations, arguing that the Commission’s directive had the potential to affect the enjoyment of the freedom of the press in Uganda.

None of the broadcasters or their employees was a party to the court cases, and, after hearing the consolidated applications, Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe of the High Court (Civil Division) granted an interim order stopping the implementation of the directive to require the individual journalists to step aside from their roles.  Court, however, made no orders regarding the investigations, and accordingly, the Commission continued with its investigations.

The Commission wishes to clarify that the purpose of the investigation and the directive to order individual producers, editors and heads of news to step aside was not intended to stifle any particular individual’s rights. This was a purely administrative measure that the Commission, in the exercise of its broad investigative mandate under the Uganda Communications Act, deemed necessary for purposes of addressing complaints that had been made to the commission, protecting the public against the potential continued risk of harmful content in the impugned broadcasts.

The Commission requested the individual producers to step aside in order to prevent interference with its investigations and ensure a smooth process of the same.

REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF THE IMPUGNED CONTENT

In order to arrive at judicious conclusions, the Investigation team reviewed both visual and audio recordings of the content that was reported as having breached the Minimum Broadcasting standards. In reviewing the subject content, the investigation team measured the content that was aired by the respective Media houses against the requirements of the following laws:

  1. The Uganda Communications Act, 2013 (The Act)
  2. The Penal Code Cap 120(The PC)
  3. The Press and Journalists Act, Cap. 105. (The PJA)
  4. The Standards for General Broadcast programming in Uganda of 2016 (The SGBP).
  5. Best Practice Guidelines for Electronic Media Broadcasters for Coverage and Broadcast of Live Events of 2011. (BPGEMB)

The investigation team physically visited the premises of the respective broadcasters and had the opportunity to verify the responses and submissions, including the recordings and technical reports that were made by the respective broadcasters. The respective broadcasters’ premises were visited on the dates indicated in the table below:

S/N Station Name Date of Visit Time
1 NTV 6/6/2019 09 am
2 NBS TV 6/6/2019 11am
3 Capital FM 6/6/2019 02 pm
4 Beat FM 6/6/2019 03 pm
5 Simba FM 6/6/2019 04 pm
6 Radio Two (Akaboozi) 7/6/2019 09 am
7 BBS TV 7/6/2019 11 am
8 CBS FM 7/6/2019 12 noon 
9 Salt TV 7/6/2019 02 pm
10 Pearl FM 7/6/2019 04 pm
11 Bukedde TV 20/06/2019 09 am

The investigation team did not physically visit  Radio Sapientia and KTV premises because of failure to submit all the required information. 

A SUMMARY OF THE LAWS AND STANDARDS REVIEWED TO ESTABLISH A BREACH

Laws Applicable

Uganda Communications Act of 2013

S. 31- A person shall not broadcast any program unless the content or program complies with schedule 4.

Schedule 4:

A broadcaster or video operator shall ensure that:-

A. Any programme which is broadcast-

i. is not contrary to public morality

ii. does not promote a culture of violence or ethnical prejudice among the public, especially the children and the youth

iii. in the case of a news broadcast, is free from distortions of facts

iv. is not likely to create public insecurity or violence.

v. Is in compliance with the existing law.

B. programmes that are broadcast are balanced to ensure harmony in such programmes.

C. adult-oriented programmes are appropriately scheduled.

D. where a programme that is broadcast is in respect to a contender for a public office, that each contender is given equal opportunity on such a programme;

E. where a broadcast relates to national security, the contents of the broadcast are verified before broadcasting.

Penal Code:

Section 21. Incitement to commit an offence.

  1. When a person incites any other person to commit an offence punishable with death, whether or not any offence is committed in consequence of the incitement, and no express provision is made by this Code or any other law for the punishment of that incitement, he or she is liable to imprisonment for ten years.
  2. When a person incites any other person to commit an offence punishable other than by death, whether or not any offence is committed in consequence of the incitement, and no express provision is made by this Code or any other law for the punishment of the incitement, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one-fourth of the term of imprisonment provided for the offence which he or she incited the other person to commit or when the offence is punishable by a fine only by such fine as is provided for the offence or when the offence is punishable by both a fine and imprisonment by both one-fourth of the imprisonment provided for and the fine.
  3. Notwithstanding subsection (2), if the person who incites the commission of an offence under that subsection is a public servant whose duty it is to prevent the commission of that offence, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one-half of the term of imprisonment provided for the offence which he or she incited the other person to commit or when the offence is punishable by a fine only by such fine as is provided for the offence or when the offence is punishable by both a fine and imprisonment by both one-half of the imprisonment provided for and the fine

Section 51- Incitement to violence

1. Any person who, without lawful excuse, prints, publishes or to any assembly makes any statement indicating or implying that it would be incumbent or desirable—

a) to do any acts calculated to bring death or physical injury to any person or to any class or community of persons, or

b) to do any acts calculated to lead to destruction or damage to any property, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

2. A person shall not be prosecuted for an offence under this section without the written consent of the Director of Public  Prosecutions.

3. For the purpose of this section, “assembly” means a gathering of three or more persons

Section 83- Incitement to violence

  1. Any person who incites any other person to do an act of violence against any person by reason of his or her race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex or office commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
  2. For the purposes of subsection (1), “office” means the office of a Minister of the Government, a member of Parliament or a councillor, a public office, employment in the service of the administration of a district or the council or board of a municipality or town, any religious office and employment as a director, officer or other official in or by anybody corporate established by or under the auspices of or controlled by the Government.

Standards for Broadcast Programmes in Uganda.

2.0 General Principles

1. Programmes should not undermine public security interest or public confidence in the law and its enforcement in Uganda.

3. Broadcasters should be vigilant against the likely effects of all television material on children. It is, therefore, necessary for broadcasters to exercise considered judgement on the capacity of children, in different age groups, to cope with the depiction and treatment of material which may not be suitable for them.

6. Broadcasters should provide advisory notices for programme content which may be potentially disturbing or upsetting so as to enable viewers to make an informed choice.

9. Factual programmes such as news, current affairs or documentary programmes should present information in an objective, accurate and balanced manner.

3.0 Protection of Public and National Interest

1. Broadcasting programmes should not;

ii. present information or events in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm to the public;

iv. contain extremist or anarchic messages, including the incitement of violence for political ends or other purposes; or

v. Sensationalize the treatment of any issue whether local, nationalistic or foreign in nature.

9. Violence, Crime and Drug Use

Violence

  1. Suggestions that justice can be achieved by violence, vigilante action or other means of taking law enforcement into one’s own hands should be avoided. Any exceptions must take into account the context and redeeming values.
  2. The depiction of violence may frighten, unnerve, unsettle or invite imitation, especially from children. Therefore, only mild portrayals that are relevant to the plot may be allowed in programmes meant for children.
  3. The concerns in violence are:

i. Depiction of graphic/gratuitous violence

ii. Normalising the use of violence as a solution to resolve problems;

iii. Depiction of violent gangster behaviour (e.g. self-mutilation rites);

iv. Emphasis on violent techniques/acts (e.g. methods of torture, gang fights, combat techniques)

v. Encouraging aggressive and sadistic attitudes towards infliction of pain and violence;

vi. Explicit and prolonged sexual violence or erotic portrayal of sexual assault /coercion.

12. News, Current Affairs and Other Factual Programmes

The following rules shall apply to the treatment of all news and/or current affairs content.

Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality –

6. Broadcasters shall ensure that morbid, sensational or alarming details not essential to factual reporting are avoided. Images that may seriously distress or offend like dead bodies should only be displayed in clear public interest.

10. The editing process shall not distort the context or meaning of the original interview.

11. A broadcaster shall ensure that the re-use of any material in a news and current affairs context, including the use of archive material, does not create unfairness or result in inaccuracies.

12. Broadcasters should not give undue prominence to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on matters of political, industrial controversy or matters pertaining to current public policy in all factual programmes. Undue prominence is a significant imbalance of views aired within the coverage of matters of political, industrial controversy or matters relating to current public policy.

18. Broadcasters shall have in place appropriate policies and procedures for handling contributions via social media.

22. Views and facts shall not be misrepresented or presented in such a way as to render them misleading. Presenters should be sensitive to the impact of their language and tone in reporting news and current affairs so as to avoid misunderstanding of the matters covered.

28. Each broadcaster shall have and implement appropriate policies and procedures to address any conflicts of interests that may exist or arise in respect of anyone with an editorial involvement in any news or current affairs content, whether such person works on-air or off-air.

16.0 Presentation and Scheduling of Programmes

  1. Broadcasters must exercise particular care when putting ‘live’ calls on air, especially where topics involved are sensitive ones, and comments made may be derogatory or offensive.
  2. Any presentation format which uses fictional personas (masqueraders) to voice distasteful and offensive viewpoints is not acceptable. Broadcasters who adopt such formats will be responsible for all comments made by the fictional personas.

5. Appropriate scheduling should be judged according to:

i. the nature of the content;

ii. The likely number and age range of children in the audience, taking into account school time, weekends and holidays;

iii. the start time and finish time of the programme;

iv. the nature of the channel or station and the particular programme; and

v. The likely expectations of the audience for a particular channel or station at a particular time and on a particular day.

17.0 Programmes Schedule or Programme Line Ups and Log Books

  1. A broadcaster shall forward to the Commission its quarterly programmes schedule/line up and synopses of new or repackaged programmes not less than one week before the beginning of the quarter.
  2. A broadcaster shall adhere to its submitted programme schedule, in the event of a change, an adequate prior announcement shall be made.
  3. A broadcaster shall maintain logbooks to record each day’s programmes; music; advertisement and sponsorships.

18.0 Broadcast Programmes Scripts

  1. Every Scheduled broadcast item, including spot announcements, shall be scripted.
  2. The scripts must be approved by the Head of programmes who will remain accountable for whatever is broadcast in that programme.
  3. In case of a news broadcast, the Chief News Editor will be accountable to the Content in the News broadcast.
  4. On-demand by the Commission, the Station shall produce any script or transcript of the programme.

19.0 Fairness

4. Broadcasters should ensure that the re-use of material, i.e. use of material filmed initially or recorded for one purpose and then used in a programme for another purpose or used in a later or different programme, does not create unfairness. This applies both to material obtained from others and the broadcaster’s own material.

5. If a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence or makes other significant allegations, those concerned should normally be given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.

FINDINGS IN RELATION TO INVESTIGATED CONTENT

 Findings on compliance with other relevant laws, license terms and conditions.

Requirements under the Press and Journalist Act Cap 105

Specific recommendations

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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