The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today supported a call by Members of Parliament (MP) in Uganda that the government allows private Nation Television (NTV) to resume its broadcasts after state regulators shut the channel down 19 days ago allegedly because some transmission equipment does not conform to technical standards.
Yesterday some MPs backed a motion ordering the government to allow NTV to resume broadcasting after the Minister of Information failed to appear before the Parliament to explain why the station had been shut down. The Minister is expected to respond to this request on Thursday.
“We call on the Members of Parliament to continue to put pressure on the government to reinstate the transmission of NTV immediately,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Office Director. “This case appears to be an attempt to shut down one broadcaster with false claims of a technical problem. We hope that after Thursday’s hearing will get to the bottom of this problem and that NTV will be able to resume its normal broadcasts.”
NTV was shut down on 2 February for the second time in a week and barely two days after it had resumed operations. The Broadcasting Council (BC), state-run media regulatory body, said the station’s equipment was overloading a mast where NTV and other broadcasters rent space. Two NTV microwave receivers were confiscated. The BC argued that the mast owned by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) was in danger of falling.
“The Broadcasting Council should return the confiscated equipment and should be the first to respect the rules by informing NTV management before switching off the station and not behave as if it has a hidden agenda against NTV,” Baglo said.
NTV management said in a statement that the BC did not serve them with a seizure note, which is a violation of the country’s Electronic Media Act.
According to a press report, BC alleged that NTV antenna weighs about 400 kg instead of 200 kg like those of other broadcasters. NTV officials, however, say that their mast weighs 240kg and the UBC approved it.
NTV is a part of the network of the Nairobi-based Nation Media Group and was launched in December 2006 in Uganda.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries