A Ugandan TV station said on Friday it had suspended three employees over the airing of a satirical clip criticising the country’s parliament.
The privately owned Baba TV said it had received complaints over Tuesday’s broadcast by presenter Simon Muyanga Lutaaya, who criticised parliament for approving a motion of censure against the housing minister.
The assembly penalised minister Persis Namuganza because she had accused it of not giving her a fair hearing to address fraud allegations levelled against her.
Lutaaya said: “I want to thank parliament for censuring Namuganza. Uganda’s problems are finally solved by this censure. Hospitals will have drugs. Our roads will be okay. The youths will get jobs.”
Two other journalists present agreed with him.
On Friday, Baba TV said several members of parliament and officials at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) regulator had complained to the Kampala-based station about the broadcast.
“The complainants perceived the clip as demeaning, mocking and ridiculing the institution of parliament and its leadership and the honourable members (of parliament),” the station management said.
“As a station committed and accountable to its viewers, management has since reviewed the show and taken internal measures to avoid a repeat of the same in future, including suspending the crew,” it said, apologising to parliament and the UCC.
Lutaaya and his colleague Kungu Al Mahadi Adam also apologised to parliament and the UCC.
Leading opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine) told AFP the suspension of the journalists and the censure of the minister, who belongs to the ruling party, was an example of “injustice and militarism which must be fought by all able-bodied Ugandans”.
The former executive director African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), Dr Peter Mwesige said such media owners are in a way a bigger threat to media freedom than the government.
“What exactly was the offence? You don’t owe anybody an apology. You have the right to share your opinion. Clearly your employers have no backbone. In fact such media owners are in a way a bigger threat to media freedom than the gov’t,” he tweeted.
Uganda has seen a series of crackdowns on people opposed to the rule of President Yoweri Museveni.
Journalists have been attacked, lawyers jailed, election monitors prosecuted, the internet shut down and opposition leaders muzzled.