Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Oooh exciting... wonder when the coup's going to be?

I'm going to blatantly cut and paste this article from the New Vision (Uganda's fairly independent but government owned newspaper) so that you actually read this ridiculousness. I thought that government leaders abusing their power and shutting down media who question them is something I'd only know about from books and movies and journalism coming out of countries that I don't live in. I've been wrong before though.

Just so you know: KFM Radio is owned by Monitor publications, the independent newspaper that is New Vision's competition. Andrew Mwenda is a well respected local journalist who also reports for the BBC and various UK newspapers. Since the writing of the New Vision article, he's been thrown in jail.

THE Broadcasting Council (BC) yesterday indefinitely closed Kampala’s K-FM radio station, a subsidiary of the Monitor Publications, saying it breached sections of the electronic media law.

At 4:18pm, K-FM, formerly Monitor FM, was closed. The last item to be aired was a song, Ndiku Digi by Ngoni.

The radio was taken off air as the programme, The Edge, was running.
Before the song, Conrad Nkutu, the Managing Director of The Monitor Publications, read on air the letter from BC secretary Okullu-Mura.

The letter, titled ‘Suspension of broadcasting license’, said, “Following receipt of numerous complaints and listening to the recording of your programme, Andrew Mwenda live of August 10, 2005 aired between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, the Broadcasting Council has discovered that the programme offends the minimum broadcasting standards enshrined in the first Schedule of the Electronic Media Cap 104/2000.
“The Broadcasting Council has decided to accordingly and with immediate effect suspend your broadcasting licence in order to carry out further investigations into the matter.”

The letter, served by two BC officials, was copied to the minister of state for information and the Inspector General of Police, Katumba Wamala.

“As a law-abiding company, we have chosen to comply and we shall proceed to take KFM off air as we pursue the matter with government authori
ties,” Nkutu said after reading the letter and then apologised to advertisers.

He said the closure was unexplained and lacked legal authority. “We shall do everything possible to return to air,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the closure because Mwenda was yesterday due to host the state minister for information, Dr. Nsaba Buturo.

Earlier on, Buturo told The New Vision that the BC had visited K-fm station to collect the recorded programme where on Wednesday Mwenda hosted presidential assistant on political affairs Moses Byaruhanga and Aswa MP Reagan Okumu.

The topic that night was, “Can government justify today’s public holiday?”

Wednesday was a public holiday in honour of seven Ugandans who died alongside Sudanese First Vice-President Dr. John Garang in a helicopter crash on July 30.

During the national prayers at Kololo Airstrip, President Yoweri Museveni referred to Mwenda as a small boy and blasted him for reportedly publishing stories prejudicial to regional security and ordered him to stop henceforth lest he clamps down on The Monitor newspaper.

The BC action triggered a mixed reaction from the staff at the Monitor headquarters in Namuwongo, a Kampala city suburb. While some looked pensive, contemplating their next move, many just laughed off the move, saying it was expected. Others mingled with journalists from other media houses who had gone there to pick the news.

While all this was going on, an apparently disturbed Mwenda was swaying in a black leather swivel chair on the fourth floor that houses Nkutu’s office. Sources said he was under strict orders not to talk to the press.

Sources said the Government was angered by Mwenda’s statements that were interpreted as demeaning the person of the President and the presidency.

During the prayers at Kololo on Wednesday, Museveni threatened to close newspapers for meddling in security issues.

On the talk-show, Mwenda said, “We shall be playing the voice of Mr. Yoweri Museveni in his attack on me and I am going to launch a counter-attack on him.” He then played a sound bite from Museveni’s speech:

“I am the elected leader of Uganda, I therefore have the ultimate mandate to run its affairs. Now, I will not tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture. When people are crying, the vultures are happy. Any newspaper which plays about with regional security, I will not tolerate.

“I have been seeing this young boy, Mwenda, writing about Rwanda, writing about Sudan, writing about the UPDF, he must stop. And this other paper called The Observer, (writing) what has been said in the army. ... this is not how a country is run. Red Pepper also, I thought those were young boys busy with naked girls, now if they have gone into regional security, they must stop. These newspapers must stop or we shall stop them from writing. If they want to continue doing business in Uganda, they must stop interfering in security matters.”

Mwenda then shot back, “First of all, no one is going to stop, at least me, I am not going to stop. If he closes the newspaper and I am out of the job, I will seek his job. I will get him out of Nakasero (State House), take him to Rwakitura (Museveni’s country home)...If the man wants me to vie for his job, let him come.”


At 5:25 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear the news directly from the source. I read the article in the Economist - regarding the crack-down on press freedom. It really concerns me and should be of great concern to the people of Uganda and Africans in general. Is there anything that you can do - to organize Ugandians to protest this move. What is the sentiment on the street!!!

Is there anything that we can do to help..



At 3:04 p.m., Blogger Deanna said...

How very eager of you, Brett! Not much to do about it though - that's how these one-party states with only superficial democratic processes get so Outta Control.

Re: the street protest idea, 1)governments who aren't really accountable don't really care about what 'the people' think. (As long as they don't attract the attention of donor countries.) Instead, you can just make rules saying that political opposition can't campaign or raise money until you're finished your own fundraising/campaigning, and other mind-boggling rules; 2)I've already been tear-gassed twice, I'm staying the HELL AWAY from street protests!


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