‘We were already offering each candidate time weekly,’ says UBC Deputy MD Maurice Mugisha
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) has agreed to provide free airspace on their Television and Radios for all the Uganda Presidential candidates.
Wilfred Senyange, the UBC spokesperson confirmed the development today. “We have contacted all the presidential candidates to get their schedules, to know where they will be at particular time and asked them people will work with as contacts, ” he said.
He added that following the directive by the Electoral Commission for it to provide free access, they have also asked the electoral commission for all the necessary details about the candidates like their contacts and schedules.
UBC has four television stations and 11 radio stations across the country airing in different dialects.
While the Electoral Commission (EC) reportedly directed Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) to provide free air space to presidential candidate, the media house’s Deputy Managing Director Maurice Mugisha said they already had an arrangement for everyone that’s been running since electioneering started.
“We allocated time each week for one presidential candidate on One on One hosted by Michael Jordan Lukomwa. We also have other platforms on Radio and TV likewhere airtime is provided on invitation by the producers. Our rates for political adverts and campaigns are at a discount,” Mugisha said.
Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson said that dialogue with management of UBC has been finalised, and a resolution arrived at for the national broadcaster to approach all the presidential candidates about their campaign programs.
This comes after physical campaigns were banned in 20 districts and cities, yet opposition candidates are reportedly denied both private and public media in these areas, apart from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party presidential candidate and incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Bukenya said they were also forced to make the directive after they received complaints from opposition presidential candidates in their various meetings over failure to access space on national platforms like UBC.
The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2020 recasts and expands the provisions of section 24(1) of the Presidential Elections Act No 16/2005 on equal access to and treatment of State-owned media. It places the obligation on the Electoral Commission to ensure equal treatment of all presidential candidates on State-owned media (recast s. 24(1)).
While candidates have to buy airspace in the other national radios and TVs like NTV and NBS, complaints persist that even there, it is not straight forward as some have either been denied space, or stopped by security before they access them.
In an interview today, candidate Gen Henry Tumukunde was bitter with NBS and EC with their promise of free access to the media.
“This is a sham. I have been seeing your news on NBS. I know what you start with, you start with President Museveni opening a school, one of his ministers doing something, then you interview NRM electoral chairman Tanga Odoi. Three quarters of the bulletin is only on one candidate, is that what you call access to media?”
Joseph Kabuleeta, an independent presidential candidate says the EC should have grips on the election process to allow candidates to access media space while on the campaign trail, but specifically in areas where physical campaigns have been banned.
He says previously, before the ban in the 20 districts and cities, police and other security operatives have ensured minimal contact between opposition candidates and the electorate in many areas, most times resulting in violence.
Nancy Linda Kalembe, the only female presidential candidate blames the denial to access media and abuse of rights of information by security and the EC as a sign of Uganda’s poor media democracy and multiparty system.
Lewis Rubongoya, the Secretary-General for the National Unity Platform castigates the EC to be mindful of a bad election by not ignoring the double standards in media access for various parties and political candidates. He says on several occasions his candidate has been banned from accessing public and private media even when they are ready to pay for the airspace.
The NRM spokesperson, Rogers Mulindwa says their presidential candidate gets media airspace because they have a good campaign program and have developments in the last 34 years to tell the people on the media platforms.