UGANDA'S MPS TO INVESTIGATE  NTV’S SWITCHING OFF

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A committee of Uganda's National Assembly has been directed to investigate the reasons that led to the switching off of Nation's TV station in Kampala. Speaker Edward Sekandi asked the Committee on Presidential Affairs to get to the bottom of the matter, as the State had failed to give convincing response.   He gave the directive after some MPs expressed dissatisfaction with statement issued on the matter by the minister of Information and National Guidance, Mr Hajji Kirunda Kivejinja. The committee was given a week to conclude its investigations.

In his statement, Mr Kivejinja said the Broadcasting Council had only been "executing its normal business" under the Electronic Media Statute 1996 and added that if the action was wrong, "there were channels to address the issue."

Mr Kivejinja said that under the law, the council was empowered to "coordinate and exercise control over and to supervise broadcasting activities."

Without giving details, the minister said the station would be returned to air "as soon as the issues that caused the switch off were addressed." But Rubanda West MP Henry Banyenzaki, who first raised the matter two weeks ago, complained that the "minister had for some reasons decided not to answer the queries put before him."

When the matter was first raised, Speaker Ssekandi had asked the minister on three separate occasions to explain the reasons for the closure, but Mr Kivejinja had failed to do so until Thursday.

The Speaker said that according to Rule 46, statements of this nature were not subject to debate by the House, and MPs could only field additional questions for clarification.

Bunyole MP Emmanuel Dombo supported the Speaker, saying that since Mr Kivejinja had mentioned institutions that were not in the House to defend themselves or clarify their actions, it was only fair that the matter was referred to the committee where witnesses could be called and the truth established.

Officials of the Broadcasting Council who argued that the station's equipment did not conform to the required standards and that the mast was unsound and overloaded, switched NTV Uganda off air last month. But NTV general manager Victor Ngei denies this assertion.

In his ruling, the Speaker said that it would be unfair if the House debated the minister's statement and came to a decision based on inadequate information.

The Nation