The Inside Track to East Africa's Economies
Tezza Solutions
N.S.E Share Price
...NSE SHARE Index: 4264.66  UP by 3.08 points | Kakuzi Ord.5.00  77.00  -3.00 | Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd Ord 5.00 16.45  0.00 | Sasini Ltd Ord 1.00 11.55  0.00 | AccessKenya Group Ltd Ord. 1.00 10.00  0.00 | Car & General (K) Ltd Ord 5.00 49.50 DNT | CMC Holdings Ltd Ord 0.50 10.40  -0.10 | Hutchings Biemer Ltd Ord 5.00 20.25 DNT | Kenya Airways Ltd Ord 5.00 39.50  0.00 | Marshalls (E.A.) Ltd Ord 5.00 14.20 DNT | Nation Media Group Ord. 2.50 173.00  -1.00 | Safaricom Ltd Ord 0.05 4.20  0.05 | Scangroup Ltd Ord 1.00 60.00  -0.50 | Standard Group Ltd Ord 5.00 39.50 DNT | TPS Eastern Africa (Serena) Ltd Ord 1.00  66.50  0.00 | Uchumi Supermarket Ltd Ord 5.00 14.50 DNT | Barclays Bank Ltd Ord 2.00 69.50  0.50 | Centum Investment Co Ltd Ord 0.50  22.25  0.25 | CFC Stanbic Holdings Ltd ord.5.00 79.00  0.00 | Diamond Trust Bank Kenya Ltd Ord 4.00 146.00  -1.00 | Equity Bank Ltd Ord 0.50 28.75  0.25 | Housing Finance Co Ltd Ord 5.00 28.00  0.75 | Jubilee Holdings Ltd Ord 5.00 187.00  1.00 | Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd Ord 1.00 23.25  0.25 | Kenya Re-Insurance Corporation Ltd Ord 2.50 10.60  -0.10 | National Bank of Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 47.00  0.50 | NIC Bank Ltd 0rd 5.00 52.00  0.50 | Olympia Capital Holdings ltd Ord 5.00 5.00  0.05 | Pan Africa Insurance Holdings Ltd 0rd 5.00 76.00  -3.50 | Standard Chartered Bank Ltd Ord 5.00 275.00  3.00 | The Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd Ord 1.00 20.25  0.25 | Athi River Mining Ord 5.00 180.00  -1.00 | B.O.C Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 150.00 DNT | Bamburi Cement Ltd Ord 5.00 197.00  0.00 | British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd Ord 10.00  280.00  6.00 | Carbacid Investments Ltd Ord 5.00 145.00  -1.00 | Crown Berger Ltd 0rd 5.00 32.50  -1.50 | E.A.Cables Ltd Ord 0.50 19.15  -0.40 | E.A.Portland Cement Ltd Ord 5.00 100.00  -3.00 | East African Breweries Ltd Ord 2.00 181.00  1.00 | Eveready East Africa Ltd Ord.1.00 2.55  0.00 | KenGen Ltd Ord. 2.50 15.50  -0.05 | KenolKobil Ltd Ord 0.05  9.40  -0.10 | Kenya Power & Lighting Co Ltd Ord 2.50 22.50  0.50 | Mumias Sugar Co. Ltd Ord 2.00 8.10  -0.30 | Sameer Africa Ltd Ord 5.00 6.15  -0.05 | Total Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 28.00  0.25 | Unga Group Ltd Ord 5.00 10.35  -0.10 | City Trust Ltd Ord 5.00 186.00 DNT | Eaagads Ltd Ord 1.25 50.00  -4.50 | Express Ltd Ord 5.00 7.50  -0.20 | Williamson Tea Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00  200.00  0.00 | Kapchorua Tea Co. Ltd Ord Ord 5.00 125.00 DNT | Kenya Orchards Ltd Ord 5.00 3.00 DNT | Limuru Tea Co. Ltd Ord 20.00 305.00 DNT | Kakuzi Ord.5.00  77.00  -3.00 | Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd Ord 5.00 16.45  0.00 | Sasini Ltd Ord 1.00 11.55  0.00 | AccessKenya Group Ltd Ord. 1.00 10.00  0.00 | Car & General (K) Ltd Ord 5.00 49.50 DNT | CMC Holdings Ltd Ord 0.50 10.40  -0.10 | Hutchings Biemer Ltd Ord 5.00 20.25 DNT | Kenya Airways Ltd Ord 5.00 39.50  0.00 | Marshalls (E.A.) Ltd Ord 5.00 14.20 DNT | Nation Media Group Ord. 2.50 173.00  -1.00 | Safaricom Ltd Ord 0.05 4.20  0.05 | Scangroup Ltd Ord 1.00 60.00  -0.50 | Standard Group Ltd Ord 5.00 39.50 DNT | TPS Eastern Africa (Serena) Ltd Ord 1.00  66.50  0.00 | Uchumi Supermarket Ltd Ord 5.00 14.50 DNT | Barclays Bank Ltd Ord 2.00 69.50  0.50 | Centum Investment Co Ltd Ord 0.50  22.25  0.25 | CFC Stanbic Holdings Ltd ord.5.00 79.00  0.00 | Diamond Trust Bank Kenya Ltd Ord 4.00 146.00  -1.00 | Equity Bank Ltd Ord 0.50 28.75  0.25 | Housing Finance Co Ltd Ord 5.00 28.00  0.75 | Jubilee Holdings Ltd Ord 5.00 187.00  1.00 | Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd Ord 1.00 23.25  0.25 | Kenya Re-Insurance Corporation Ltd Ord 2.50 10.60  -0.10 | National Bank of Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 47.00  0.50 | NIC Bank Ltd 0rd 5.00 52.00  0.50 | Olympia Capital Holdings ltd Ord 5.00 5.00  0.05 | Pan Africa Insurance Holdings Ltd 0rd 5.00 76.00  -3.50 | Standard Chartered Bank Ltd Ord 5.00 275.00  3.00 | The Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd Ord 1.00 20.25  0.25 | Athi River Mining Ord 5.00 180.00  -1.00 | B.O.C Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 150.00 DNT | Bamburi Cement Ltd Ord 5.00 197.00  0.00 | British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd Ord 10.00  280.00  6.00 | Carbacid Investments Ltd Ord 5.00 145.00  -1.00 | Crown Berger Ltd 0rd 5.00 32.50  -1.50 | E.A.Cables Ltd Ord 0.50 19.15  -0.40 | E.A.Portland Cement Ltd Ord 5.00 100.00  -3.00 | East African Breweries Ltd Ord 2.00 181.00  1.00 | Eveready East Africa Ltd Ord.1.00 2.55  0.00 | KenGen Ltd Ord. 2.50 15.50  -0.05 | KenolKobil Ltd Ord 0.05  9.40  -0.10 | Kenya Power & Lighting Co Ltd Ord 2.50 22.50  0.50 | Mumias Sugar Co. Ltd Ord 2.00 8.10  -0.30 | Sameer Africa Ltd Ord 5.00 6.15  -0.05 | Total Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00 28.00  0.25 | Unga Group Ltd Ord 5.00 10.35  -0.10 | City Trust Ltd Ord 5.00 186.00 DNT | Eaagads Ltd Ord 1.25 50.00  -4.50 | Express Ltd Ord 5.00 7.50  -0.20 | Williamson Tea Kenya Ltd Ord 5.00  200.00  0.00 | Kapchorua Tea Co. Ltd Ord Ord 5.00 125.00 DNT | Kenya Orchards Ltd Ord 5.00 3.00 DNT | Limuru Tea Co. Ltd Ord 20.00 305.00 DNT 
Subscribe to Ratio Magazine
Check out our Business Diary
Find a job

 

Uganda: Regulations for Overly Inquisitive Print Media? Print E-mail
Friday, 30 July 2010
The print media in Uganda has not had to adjust to a new regulatory framework since the fairly benign Press and Journalism Act was passed in 1994. However, the proposed 2010 amendment bill threatens to increase the state’s power to interfere with and exert pressure on the press.  

Condemned by international press and journalism associations as well as the Ugandan media, the proposed amendment has been described as ‘unsound,’ ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘draconian.’ Indeed, the draft bill’s vaguely defined and far-ranging new clauses promise to have a profound and negative impact on the industry as a whole.
 
Ministerial Control and the Media Council

The 1994 Press and Journalism Act established the Media Council as the print media’s primary regulator. While it essentially reports to the Minister for Information, the Council was set up to function as a quasi-autonomous organ capable of convening a Disciplinary Committee to deal with complaints against journalists and editors. So far, the Council and the Disciplinary Committee have adjudicated disputes between members of the public, the state, and the individuals from among the press community with significant independence – the presence of journalists, editors, and mass communication scholars in the Council has helped to keep the its aims in line with those of the industry.  

The proposed amendment bill, however, represents a move towards the erosion of this status, with the minister’s powers expanding significantly:
  • While certain positions in the Media Council are already filled by ministerial appointment, even nomination, the bill proposes that the Minister of Information should directly select the Council’s chairperson. Currently, the chairperson is elected by the Council from among its members.
  • The bill dictates that instead of two, only one scholar of mass communications should sit on the Council.
  • Instead of four non-journalist members, nominated by the Uganda Newspaper Editors and Proprietors Association, journalists, and the Minister, the bill will reduce this corps to two individuals directly appointed by the Minister.
  • Under the amendment, the Council’s lawyer would no longer be nominated by the Uganda Law Society, and appointed by the Minister, but rather be appointed by the minister in consultation with the Uganda Law Society, reducing the latter’s influence.
 
The abrasion of the Council’s independence from the state could lead to a marked reduction of press freedom in Uganda. If nothing else, it would likely hamper the vibrancy and proliferation of the industry. Currently, the major newspapers and magazine publish exposés of corruption – such as the 2007 CHOGM thefts – and stories handling the mismanagement of state machinery daily. The possibility that the print media’s regulator and its favourite subject will effectively be merged certainly constitutes a threat to the industry’s independence, its ability to generate pressure for public accountability, and possibly even its commercial viability. 

Public vs. Private Ownership

It is a testament to the relative freedom of the print media in Uganda that the New Vision, a state-owned newspaper, has, within limits, frequently printed critical stories about the government. However, the draft bill also betrays a drift towards deliberate differentiation between private and state-owned media, with the introduction of a representative of private-sector newspapers to both the Disciplinary Committee and the Media Council.

Dr. Goretti Nassanga, chairperson of the Media Council, has concerns about the security of the independent media in Uganda. Fear of finding oneself on the wrong side of the state, and on the wrong side of vaguely-framed laws, she says, has already led some editors to make the cautious choices on content. The ratification of a bill that stratifies the difference between state-led media and independent houses and concentrates regulatory powers in ministerial hands can only serve to further undermine the quality and success of the industry; moreover, and more worryingly, the bill constrains the media space by outlining new, broad-ranging and ill-defined content restrictions.

New Content Restrictions

Where the original act contains fairly straightforward clauses intended to uphold standards of journalism, barring newspapers from publishing false information, or information that inappropriately violates individual privacy, the proposed bill will extend these from a professional conduct manual into a far murkier political domain, including restrictions on the following:
  • Publishing matter which is ‘prejudicial to national security, stability, and unity’;
  • Publishing matter that could harm Uganda’s relations with friendly countries and neighbours;
  • Publishing material that amounts to ‘economic sabotage’.
 
These undefined provisions will enable state prosecution of members of the press on a virtually limitless scale. The government has intermittently put pressure on journalists and editors within the bounds of law, by involving them in costly law suits, but also without a legal basis through raids on the offices of newspapers. But there are concerns that the proposed legislation, if passed into law, will effectively turn these ad-hoc back-lashes into legalised action that is bound to occur more frequently. The punishments for contravention of these rules, as laid out in the bill, include hefty fines and a prison term up to two years in duration.

Licensing and Investment

Ugandan newspapers do not require a license to operate. Editors must register with the Media Council, and journalists must hold a practicing certificate, but newspapers themselves are subject to no such registration process.  This is crucial for the print media, as it means that a state crack-down must be directed at individual reporters and editors, blocking the state from legally shutting down a newspaper. By contrast, the broadcast media have no such safety-net, and, in September 2009 during the Buganda riots, the Buganda radio station CBS was forced off the air. Nearly a year later, CBS are still not broadcasting.

The amendment bill requires that, within six months of its ratification, all newspapers register and apply for licenses. These licenses are to be valid for no more than a year, i.e. the print media will have to renew their license annually. Beyond the more predictable and banal criteria for receipt of a license, the Media Council – which will then have a much stronger state representation, as outlined above – is expected to take into account a publication’s ‘social, cultural and economic values’. Again, the far-reaching and ill-defined provision can be read as a hallmark of a move to extend state control.

For investors, the new licensing regime might act as a crucial deterrent. Where previously a paper could stand to lose money through expensive law-suits or even damages during raids, a paper could now, at any time, practically cease to exist.
 
Furthermore, the bill hints at further legislation that might be critical for investors, in its stipulation that the Media Council should now also regulate investment by print media owners in the print industry, as well as foreign media ownership ‘by limiting the involvement of the foreign media in the print industry’. This may not have immediate impact: The Daily Monitor, the second-largest paper, and the state-owned New Vision’s primary competitor, is owned by Kenya’s Nation Media Group (NMG), but the NMG do not anticipate that this will become a problem as they argue that existing ownership relations should not be affected, and any interference on this level would also violate East African Community (EAC) protocol. However, combined, the restrictions above could certainly deter foreign direct investment in the sector.
 
Perspectives

The proposed bill has unsurprisingly been heavily criticised especially by independent print media. While the established Act includes rarely, or at best, patchily enforced clauses, the bill betrays the government’s intention to get more heavy-handed in its dealings with the media. Ad-hoc crack downs on the media outside the law have, of course, happened before, but the proposed legislation would effectively legalise them. There is no doubt that if fully implemented in its current form, this will act to the detriment of the quality of Ugandan journalism and to the commercial viability of the Ugandan press industry.
 
Uganda’s independent print media consider the numerous law suits they have been involved a simple, and in the end, an acceptable cost of doing business. But the new bill promises a greater financial burden, greater risks for institutions and individual members of the press community. Quality is certainly a concern in Uganda’s print media, but the proposed legislation offers no suggestions on how to address this.

Uganda’s current political and economic context provides an explanation for this move towards a reversal of the currently relatively open media environment: After the removal of the presidential term limits in 2005, president Yoweri Museveni ran for a third term in 2006, and will stand again in the next presidential elections in February 2011. There are no signs that he has considered any succession arrangements, and the public’s frustrations over his protracted hold on power, deteriorating governance, and the multitude of business opportunities given to his immediate family, but also a growing patronage network, are on the increase. Museveni is widely expected to win the 2011 election, but irregularities of past elections are expected to become more pronounced. Under these circumstances, close media scrutiny will prove inconvenient.

The discovery of commercial quantities of oil at Uganda’s western border has increased the stakes in the political contest. Impending oil production offers not only a PR boost to the president, but also contains useful patronage opportunities. Tighter licensing arrangements and ill-defined clauses such as ‘economic sabotage’ allow the government to stifle critical inquiries into the mechanics of Museveni’s election win and governance concerns in Uganda’s petroleum sector.
 
The government, however, if publicly defiant, now appears to have put the legislation on hold for the moment. Renewed revisions may be underway, but the lack of transparency in the procedures is also a concern to the industry. According to the Media Council’s chair, Dr. Goretti Nassanga, “these revisions need to be discussed by all the stakeholders. We haven’t had much of that.”  

At the same time, cracking down on print media covers only a limited number of media and information sources. Uganda has a very vibrant FM sector: at the moment, the country has more than 200 FM stations, compared to 130 in Kenya, and 120 in Tanzania. In addition, internet access – virtually impossible to censor – is growing rapidly, especially among the more restive city populations. Discussion press freedom at the March 2010 Nation Media Group’s East African Media Conference, Zimbabwean publisher Trevor Ncube argued that after several years of liberalization in the media industry, the environment was becoming more restrictive again, a trend that is reflected in both Uganda and its EAC neighbour Kenya.  

In the EAC, Kenya’s government had tried to introduce new broadcast regulations that limit cross-ownership, i.e. ownership of both a newspaper and broadcast outlets in the same company, turn previously open-ended licenses into renewable, fixed-term licenses, and most importantly, would force media houses to give up all but one broadcast frequency (see Kenya: New Broadcast Regulations a Blow to Media Investors ). Again, the industry has vowed to resist this enforced fragmentation of the industry and related restrictions on its earnings potential. Although the regulations have been gazetted, i.e. have become applicable law, the government, possibly concerned with a multitude of laws suits, has made some conciliatory noises that the most contentious clauses would be looked into again.  

But it is worth bearing in mind that as in Uganda, legal boundaries do not constitute a prerequisite: The arson raid on the Standard newspapers in March 2006 had been defended by then Minister for Internal Security John MIchuki with the statement ‘If you rattle a snake, expect to be bitten’. No apologies here.



Share this article with others:
Digg!Reddit!Del.icio.us!Facebook!Slashdot!Netscape!Technorati!StumbleUpon!Newsvine!Furl!Yahoo!Ma.gnolia!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment

busy
 
 
Arqaam Capital
Global Interlink Travel Services Ltd.
African is Cool online investor relations
Follow RatioMagazine on Twitter

Sponsored Links

News Stream