UCC Threatens to Close 3 TVs over ‘Misleading’ COVID-19 Interviews

UCC ED Irene Kaggwa Ssewankambo

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has threatened to revoke the licenses of three television stations for refusing to heed to the Commission’s public advisory notice on COVID-19.

According to the acting UCC executive director, Irene Kaggwa Ssewankambo, the regulator is demanding for an explanation from NTV, its sister station, Spark TV and Buganda kingdom’s BBS TV to explain why their licenses shouldn’t be revoked for airing information that the commission says was intended “to confuse, divert and mislead unsuspecting members of the public against complying with the guidelines issued by the relevant government authorities on the coronavirus disease.”

The TVs’ crime is in giving airtime to Pastor Augustine Yiga, the controversial lead pastor of Revival Church, Kawaala in Lubaga division, Kampala, who raised doubts about the authenticity of government’s reports on the existence of coronavirus in Uganda.

Yiga was first featured on Spark TV’s Live wire – an entertainment gossip news program on March 27, and later on BBS Terefayina’s Ebyookya Ku Wiikendi.

NTV, on the other hand, is accused of providing a platform to a one Simon Senyonga on its MorningsAtNTV on March 26 to make objectionable COVID-19 related statements. 

The three TV stations, Kaggwa said, risk being charged under Section 171 of the Penal Code Act which states that; “Any person who unlawfully or negligently does any act which is and which he or she knows or has reason to believe to be likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”

“The concerned TV stations must provide sufficient written explanation for the highlighted breaches within five days. Failure to explain themselves satisfactorily, the Commission could proceed to institute regulatory sanctions against them, including the possibility of suspending their licenses, and/or initiate prosecution under Section 171 of the Penal Code Act.”

On March 22, the government, fearing that the widespread misinformation and distortion on COVID-19 might undermine its efforts to combat the pandemic, issued a public advisory notice warning broadcasters to desist from disseminating false and unverified information.

On Saturday, the police at the urging of Ministry of Health’s Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwiine arrested Pastor Yiga over his utterances.

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