The Uganda Police Force has announced tough guidelines for media houses to follow before hosting night guests, and also unveiled the Violence Suppression Unit to disperse crowds at radio and television stations.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga says the new rules are meant to keep night guests safe, and to ensure that security personnel on patrol do not inconvenience them during curfew hours.
Police now wants radio and television stations to inform police commanders in the areas of their operation about the guests they will host in their night shows.
This, Enanga explained, is because show guests, unlike journalists who are among essential workers and therefore allowed to move even during curfew hours, guests will need clearance to move at night.
According to the new rules, media houses are supposed to write to local police commanders, giving details of their guests, the shows they will participate in, the show period and the location of guests’ homes.
If media houses don’t alert local police, their guests could be arrested for flouting the presidential directive on curfew on their way home.
Such scenarios have already happened. Presidential aspirant Charles Rwomushana is facing charges of disobeying lawful orders after his arrest after the NBS TV Barometer talk show of July 28.
Enanga also announced the formation of the Violence Suppression Unit that will ensure that politicians attending radio and television shows do not come with crowds.
But media activists have opposed the new rules. Robert Sempala, the executive director of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) has described police orders as ‘ugly gagging.’
“It’s just too laughable that someone tasks police to clear panellists to appear on media night talk shows,” said Sempala.