Uganda census: private TV channels refuse to broadcast Museveni’s message

Legend, Estimates suggest that Uganda’s population increased from 36 million in 2014 to around 45 million.

  • Author, Wycliffe Muia
  • Role, BBC News

Uganda’s private television and radio stations have refused to broadcast a presidential message promoting efforts to conduct a national census, citing a lack of funding.

This is despite a directive from the state-linked Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to all broadcasters to give the census “maximum publicity” free of charge.

President Yoweri Museveni had recorded a video message explaining to Ugandans the importance of participating in the exercise.

But the broadcasters’ association rejected the directive, saying it could not comply without adequate government funding.

The government declared Friday a public holiday to allow citizens to fully participate in the national housing and population census.

The 10-day exercise, led by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), aims to collect social and demographic data for sound government planning.

Mr Museveni’s message was posted on social media, urging Ugandans to cooperate with data collectors and provide them with accurate information.

On Tuesday, the UCC ordered all local broadcasters to carry the message throughout the exercise to ensure its success.

He reminded broadcasters of their obligation under official guidelines to provide the government with free airtime for national events.

In response, industry representative the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) said private broadcasters provided free coverage during national emergencies, but expected the government to fund events planned in advance, such as the census.

Media outlets operated as commercial entities, paying license fees and taxes to the government, while also bearing other costs, such as staff salaries, NAB chairman Innocent Nahabwe said in a statement.

Complying with these guidelines without appropriate funding would set a worrying precedent, he added.

“It is on the basis of these considerations that we have unfortunately refused to comply with the directive issued by the UCC and we will inform our members accordingly,” Mr Nahabwe said.

Uganda will conduct its sixth national census, using digital systems for the first time, local media reported.

The last census in 2014 estimated the population of this East African state at 36 million inhabitants. Estimates suggest that number has since risen to around 45 million.

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Image source, Getty Images/BBC