Wednesday March 10 2010

CBS denies inciting September riots

By Alfred Nyongesa Wandera & Anthony Wesaka


Central Broadcasting Services Limited, which owns CBS radio, has denied charges by the State that it mobilised and incited the public into violence during last year’s September riots. In court documents filed to contest an attempt by the government to force it to pay damages for losses suffered during the riots, in which 27 people were killed, CBS says it only mobilised Baganda and other well-wishers to attend Kabaka’s functions and visits to his subjects in all parts of Buganda and acted in accordance with the Constitution.

Government blamed
The radio, which was shut down during the riots following allegations that it was fanning violence, and which has remained shut since then, argues that the chaos was caused by the government’s decision to bar the Katikkiro from visiting Kayunga ahead of a planned visit by the Kabaka.
The government said it could not guarantee the safety of the Kabaka in an area where a small minority is seeking to secede from Buganda.

CBS insists that the powers of the Broadcasting Council in the Electronic Media Act do not include closing down a radio station and withdrawing its broadcasting licence. Instead the radio argues that any terms and conditions that purport to give such powers to the Broadcasting Council are illegal because the Act forbids the prevention of broadcasting of a programme on account of its contents.

The radio, which has close links to Buganda Kingdom, says alternative procedures and sanctions would have been undertaken by the Broadcasting Council other than closing it down.

The case
CBS’ defence dated February 25 follows government’s filing of a suit at High Court against it seeking court to order it to pay damages for allegedly mobilising and inciting the public into violence and rebelling against lawful authority.

In December, CBS employees sued the government and asked court to declare that the closure of the radio was malicious and illegal, and seeking damages of Shs1.4 billion. The High Court has advised both parties to settle the case out of court.