“We Weren’t Consulted” – National Theatre Wants New Law Regulating Arts Reviewed

Sam Okello Okello, the Chairperson Board of Trustees of UNCC speaking to reporters.

The Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) also known as the National Theatre has said it was not consulted during the enactment of the new laws that will regulate Uganda’s arts and creative industry.

UNNC is protesting the new law by UCC which it says creates a conflict in the mandates of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and UNCC. 

The entity whose mandate is to preserve, promote, develop and popularize Uganda’s art and cultural heritage, has asked that the new law be reviewed.

Addressing reporters in Kampala on Tuesday, Sam Okello Okello, the Chairperson Board of Trustees of UNCC demanded a review of the mandates of UCC and UNCC and that stakeholders in the arts industry be consulted in formulating revised regulations.

“The legal frameworks regulating culture and creative industries must be developed in such a way that it contributes to the mobility of artists and commodities, artistic expression, artistic freedom, creativity, innovation, unity and diversity…. and at the same time protection of the intellectual properties and rights,” Okello Okello said.

“The UCC Act and the attendant Regulation in the form it is in, is in direct conflict with the mandate of the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development where artists are housed”.

The Executive Director of UNCC, Ojede Francis Peter said; “In the process of the development of these regulations, the UNCC was not consulted. And that’s why we need further engagement so that this matter can be discussed so that we have a law that everybody is happy with”.

He said the problem began with the review of the UCC Act because in repealing it, the arts industry was not consulted.

“And because of that, the aspect of managing art and culture has been put into the law of the UCC. Yes, the new Regulation is legal but it’s premised on the UCC Act which did not have wide consultations with stakeholders like ourselves,” Ojede said.

Asked his take on the provisions in the Regulations which require artists to take their work (to government) for scrutiny before it’s published or staged, Ojede admitted that indeed it is important to have limits for artists’ compositions (songs, plays, art, skits…) but added that these limits can only be agreed upon through consultation.

“That’s why we need everybody to sit down and say ‘To what extent can we stretch?’ If you make a song or a play and children watch it, yet you do not have an age disclaimer on it, you’ll have infringed on children’s rights”. There are DOs and DONTs that we all have to agree on”.

In recent days, musicians, comedians, actors and other artists have come out to strongly criticize the new regulations saying they are not ready to comply. They described the clause that makes it mandatory for their work to be reviewed before production as outrageous. 

Some industry leaders have vowed to take legal action to ask that court repeals the law.

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