State media managers face jail for denying presidential candidates coverage

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State owned media managers face a year in jail or a fine of up to Shs10 million for denying presidential candidates coverage.

Section 7 of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019, passed by Parliament on Thursday, 27 February 2020 prescribes the punishment.

“An officer responsible for a state owned media house who contravenes subsection(1) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 24 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both,” reads the law in part.

The legislation, said Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson Hon Jacob Marksons Oboth, is informed by the Kizza Besigye Vs UBC & Attorney General case.

In 2016, Dr Kizza Besigye, then Forum for Democratic Change Presidential candidate, paid for a slot in the state-owned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBD) television, but told court that the programme was never conducted neither was he reimbursed.

Victoria University

MPs also called for similarity in prominence for presidential candidates.

In February 2018, Besigye won the case against UBC upon which Justice Margaret Ogulion awarded him Shs80m in costs and damages.

She heard that the national broadcaster Shs21m to run his campaign adverts ahead of the 2011 presidential elections but they (UBC) failed to honour the agreement.

During the hearing of the case, Besigye asked UBC to refund his Shs21 million.

Among other redresses, Besigye also sought an injunction barring UBC as a national broadcaster from discriminating against people depending on their political affiliations.

According to the suit filed against UBC and it’s the former Managing Director Edward Musinguzi, the company received Shs21 million from Besigye’s media agent, Big Ideas, to run over 200 spot messages for his 2011 presidential campaigns but none was run.

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