By Otim Nape
A Kampala-based pastor has cooled his heels on remand at the Luzira Maximum Security for about a week, having been sent there by Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court after he was accused of operating an illegal radio station.
The 42-year old Apostle Bosio Eddie, whose church is based in Ntinda, a Kampala suburb was charged with two counts of installing and operating radio broadcasting apparatus without license, and broadcasting without license, contrary to the Uganda Communications Act (UCC) of 2013.
Apostle Eddie, working with others still at large, allegedly committed the offence at Kigowa, Ntinda, in Kampala between December 2018 and July 2019 when he operated radio broadcasting apparatus for IAM FM Radio without a license.
UCC enforcement officers arrested him for airing all his church services on the illegally installed 104.3 IAM FM station. When he appeared in court, Pastor Eddie denied the charges.
According to Abdu-Sallam Waiswa, the Head Legal at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), all broadcasters are required to have a license to ensure order, professionalism and effective utilisation of the broadcasting equipment and frequencies.
“We believe that the evidence we have so far have is sufficient to have this man convicted,” said Waiswa.
He was addressing journalists outside the premises of Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court after the hearing.
“He has denied the charges but we have evidence, he was found broadcasting.”
Mr. Waiswa explained that installation and operation of radio broadcasting apparatus without license, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine of up to 1500 currency points, which is equivalent to Shs3m.
Ibrahim Bbossa, the Head Public and International Relations at UCC expressed concern that many Ugandans “don’t understand the gravity of the offence [illegal broadcasting].”
He explained that illegal broadcasting can cause interference and danger to other services, including security agencies and air operators that use the same.
“Some of the frequencies that errant people are trying to violate have been issued to other sensitive operations like security, aviation and it is possible for somebody to cause a catastrophe by self-allocating and self-assigning a frequency that has not been issued by the Commission,” Bbosa cautioned.
Bbosa was concerned that national security cold be endangered by such people, who themselves may not be spared the consequences.
In the implementation of its mandate, UCC does regular monitoring and supervision of frequencies across the country and it was during such routine work that an unknown frequency was traced in Ntinda.
“Because this signal was not known to the commission, our enforcement and investigation teams followed up and they found that there was actually equipment that was installed and [it was] broadcasting as a radio station,” said Bbosa.
He added that UCC is mandated to ensure Uganda’s communication spectrum is well utilized, and illegal operations and interference are minimised for the good of everybody.
To crack the whip on illegal and non-compliant broadcasters, Uganda Communications Commission last year installed high-tech equipment in Masindi and Mbale districts. Besides generating signals on unregistered broadcasters, the same technology helps to collect information on broadcasters whose rights have been suspended.
According to Bbosa, compliance with broadcasting requirements currently stands at 60%.
However, the UCC Director of Engineering and Communications Infrastructure Irene Kaggwa said there are still a few issues needing the regulator’s attention.
“It is mainly issues like stations going out of their bandwidth and interfering with another’s frequency,” said Kaggwa.
According to section 26(1) and (3) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, no person is allowed to install radio, TV or broadcasting apparatus without a license from UCC.
The law defines broadcasting as the transmission of sound, video or data intended for simultaneous transmission to the public.
Abdu-Sallam Waiswa revealed that UCC is about to embark on a nationwide campaign to crack down on community audio towers locally known in Luganda as bizindalo or loud speakers, especially those who have defied the UCC directive to dismantle them.
UCC issued the directive against the community audio towers about three years ago. Now, whereas the levels of compliance have been commendable across the country, especially in the central region/Buganda where they are very common, there are still a few people who have remained adamant. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).