T he executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, Friday insisted that the regulator has no hand in the incidents where police have raided and switched off radio stations hosting former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye.
In the space of two weeks, police have raided radio stations in Kabale, Jinja and Mubende districts to stop a live talk show where Dr Besigye is being hosted. They have also switched off transmitters and pulled him out of the studios.
The latest incident occurred on Thursday when police raided Mubende FM in Mubende District , arrested and detained Dr Besigye in Mityana before releasing him later in the day.
“No we don’t have a hand in this. We don’t know whether it is true or not because nobody has reported to us,” Mr Mutabazi said.
He said much as UCC has heard about the incidents through “rumours” there is no action the regulator can take until the managers or proprietors of the radio stations report the matter officially.
“UCC would act if there was a report by any of the affected radio stations. Let’s first be aware through an official complaint and we see how to take it forward,” he added.
Asked whether the police raid on a media house contravenes the UCC Act, Mr Mutabazi said as a security agency, the police can without clearance switch of the transmitters.
“If someone is inciting public violence, they (police) can switch off without UCC clearance. If you are committing a crime, they don’t want UCC to clear,” he explained
Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, said the Force is yet to find out what exactly has been happening between the commanders in the affected areas and Dr Besigye.
“That is something that we are yet to find out because it is not our duty to switch off radio and television stations. That is the mandate of UCC. I don’t see really how police can come and switch off a radio station. We need to take time to find out about that allegation,” he said.
He, however, said the police will not look on as Dr Besigye and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party members continue to hold illegal rallies where they mobilise people to join the defiance campaign.
Dr Besigye who insists he won the 2016 presidential polls, last year, announced 2019 as a year of action as he vowed to lead Ugandans in forcing President Museveni out of power before the 2021 elections.
Asked about Dr Besigye’s arrest on Friday, Mr Enanga declined to give specifics of an offence committed but insisted that FDC has continuously breached provisions of the Public Order Management Act (POMA). Mr Enanga referred to the Jinja incident, saying Dr Besigye had held a lawful town hall meeting at Bugembe but went ahead to use the radio station to invite people to attended an “illegal” public rally at Busoga Square.
On the arrests from within radio studios, he said, the police have powers to conduct an arrest with or without a warrant if there is “suspicion of commission of a crime or somebody is about to commit one”.
The executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Mr Ofwono Opondo, insisted that any Resident District Commissioner ordering police to raid radio stations as has been alleged in the latest incidents, is unlawful.
He suggested that Dr Besigye might be using his contacts within the police to create situations aimed at attracting public sympathy for him.