Opposition legislators are up in arms over an executive order by the president to ring-fence advertising to the owned media Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and Vision Group.
The directive was reinforced by a budget call circular issued by Ramathan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, on July 12, 2023, which allocated UBC an annual budget of 30 billion Shillings.
Led by Joyce Bagala Ntwatwa, the Mityana District Woman Representative and Shadow Minister for Information and Anti-Corruption, the opposition lawmakers have strongly opposed President Yoweri Museveni’s directive.
They argue that it discriminates against private media companies and suffocates fair competition, going against the principles of a liberalized economy and freedom of expression. They also claim that the media entities receiving government subsidies are already funded by taxpayers.
Gilbert Olanya, the Kilak South Member of Parliament in Amuru District, called on President Museveni to reverse his directive and apologize to Ugandans. If not, the opposition threatened to mobilize the masses to boycott watching government-owned TV and listening to government-owned radio stations.
Geoffrey Ekanya, the Tororo County MP reasons that President Museveni is on an expedition of capturing private media entities to be under the State ahead of the 2026 general polls thus he should be forced to overturn his pronouncement.
The opposition’s response follows protests by journalists under the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), who condemned the president’s prohibition on state advertising in privately owned media outlets.
In a letter to key government figures and the media regulator, UCC, the UPPA described the directive as anti-democracy in a private sector-led economy and announced their refusal to cover any government events until the decision is rescinded.
“In a democratic society, robust media serves as the backbone of transparency, empowering citizens with reliable information to make informed decisions. We shall not thereafter cover any government event until this decision is rescinded.” UPPA President Samuel Ibanda Mugabi’s letter read in part.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), representing radio and television broadcasters, has also resolved to boycott all government activities in response to the directive. The opposition lawmakers likened this directive to the one that ring-fenced infrastructure contracts for the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Engineering Brigade, resulting in stalled public projects