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Remarks by the outgoing Chairperson Associate Proffesor Goretti Nassanga at the Inauguration of the Media Council - 24th October 2011


Monday, 24th October 2011

REMARKS BY THE OUTGOING CHAIRPERSON ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR GORETTI NASSANGA AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE MEDIA COUNCIL 24TH OCTOBER 2011

Hon Minister of Information and National Guidance
The Permanent Secretary
Office of the Prime Minister
The Director for Information and National Guidance
Senior Officials from the Ministry
Members of the Media Council
Members of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Members of the Council, I would like to say a few remarks as Outgoing Chairperson and a person who has served on this Council for several years.

I would like to thank the Minister for giving us the opportunity to serve on the Council and to us the old Members it is another opportunity.
The Council is mandated to ensure press freedom and to regulate the Media. It is not an easy task especially in Uganda where Constitution Provision 29 almost gives the media absolute freedom.

We should therefore be careful while drafting media legislation. The Press and Journalist Act CAP 105 gives some powers to the Media Council and the Council has endeavored to use these powers to regulate the media. We have for example handled eight (8) Disciplinary cases in 2010 alone.

Some sections of society might not be satisfied with our decisions but most times it is the inadequacy of the Law.
Section 33 of the Act under which we discipline Journalists only empowers us to admonish the Journalist, make the Journalist apologise to the aggrieved party, suspend the Practicing Certificate of a Journalist or asking the media organization to pay damages to the aggrieved.

In most cases we have awarded damages to the aggrieved parties. The highest was the 100 million shillings awarded to Colonel Muammar Gadaffi and 30 million awarded to Hajji Habib Kagimu.

We have not suspended the Practicing Certificate of any Journalist simply because journalists resisted the issue of Practicing Certificates arguing that it contravenes Section 29 of the Constitution. These are areas to look at when we are proposing the new legislation.

In case of damages, the parties can always appeal to the High Court and the High Court could uphold or overrule our decision.

As far as funding of the Council is concerned, the Act did not specify on how the Council would be funded which was a serious oversight. Unlike in the Electronic Media Act where the Act specifically provides that the funds of the Broadcasting Council shall consist of:-

- Grants from Government
- Monies paid for services rendered by the Council
- License fees.
The Media Council is funded by merely accreditation fees from foreign journalists who come to Uganda. This is a very unreliable source as sometimes they don't come and when they come it is still too inadequate to enable the Council fulfill its mandate.

The average is 3 million shillings per month which can't cater for Council day to day expenses, salaries for staff and allowances to Council Members and other activities of the Council.

In addition to holding Disciplinary Committee and Plenary meetings which require funds, the Council has plans of holding sensitization seminars with journalists around the country on Media ethics and responsible reporting, it has to attend to international meetings to get exposure on how the Media regulates itself and how other Statutory Councils handle the Media. It should carry out inspection of Media Houses all over the country to ensure that they conform to standards, inspection of Video Halls all over the country to ensure that films which are screened don't corrupt morals of society, make brochures to sensitise the public about its Annual role, it should also do media monitoring and making the state of media Annual Reports, in addition to carrying out a census of all journalists in the country.

The future efficiency of the Council therefore hinges on finding a way forward about its funding. Notwithstanding the proposal submitted by the previous Council on how the Council should be funded. The new Council will table to you Hon Minister the well refined proposal on how the Council should be funded.

We thank the Government for housing the Secretariat of the Council and hosting our meetings but we prefer to have an independent home and that is our aspiration if the funding element is sorted out.

We also thank the outgoing Ministers for not interfering or influencing the work of the Council despite housing us.

The Council is a Statutory Body which should exercise its duties independently. It is our hope that Hon Minister you will also uphold this spirit being closer to us than your predecessors.

I thank you and we pledge to serve the Council and our country with dedication, commitment and honour.