State Minister of Finance, David Bahati, says the amendments are to give the minister powers to make regulations relating to setting license fees, use of any communications station and apparatus, as well as obligations of producers, proprietors or broadcaster in respect of public broadcasts, among others.
With growing suspicion over amendment of Section 93 (1) of the Act to allow the Minister of Information and ICT make regulations without approval of Parliament, government says the revisions only seek to strengthen the implementation of the Act by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
David Bahati, State Minister of Finance, explains that the amendments are to give the minister powers to make regulations relating to setting license fees, use of any communications station and apparatus, as well as obligations of producers, proprietors or broadcaster in respect of public broadcasts, among others.
Bahati cites the Uganda National Roads Authority Act, Uganda Revenue Authority Act and Public Finance Management Act among laws that give powers to the minister to make regulations, in conformity with the constitution.
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Bahati was speaking at the inaugural Press Plenary talks organised by the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), Freedom House and Center For Policy Analysis in Kampala.
The talks, a monthly discussion on policy and governance, majorly centered on the Uganda Communications Amendment Bill 2016, and suspicion that the amendments are aimed at tightening the noose on media freedom.
Fred Otunnu, UCC's Director of Corporate Affairs, explains that due to the technicalities involved in the bill, it is prudent that the ministry and UCC draft the regulations.
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However, Joachim Buwembo, a veteran journalist, says that the timing of the amendments raises suspicion. He warns that passing regulations and laws which seek to target media freedom will be challenged in court.
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Robert Ssepala, the coordinator Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) insists that giving the minister powers is an avenue for abuse of power.
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Susan Parker-Burns, U.S Embassy Public Affairs Officer says the amendments should be a choice for Ugandans to make and should be arrived at through consensus.
Paul Amoru, Dokolo North MP said for the interest of demystifying suspicion, media and government should hold more consultative meetings.