Government must bring to an end the acts of intimidation against upcountry media houses which host Opposition politicians. The act is an affront on, among other things, the freedom of press and is a violation of our laws, including Article 29(1a) of the Constitution, which provides that everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of press and other media.
Article 20 guarantees that the freedoms of expression and of access to information are inherent and not granted by the State. In blatant disregard of all these provisions of the Constitution and other international instruments to which Uganda is party, State agents, especially police and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), have continued to raid and or switch off these radio stations.
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the government regulatory body of the communications sector, has largely distanced itself from the recent cases.
Many recent cases involve hosting former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye. On April 4, security personnel switched off Hope Radio in Kabale Municipality which was hosting Dr Besigye and other Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party leaders on the orders of Mr Darius Nandiinda, the Kabale RDC, who according to officials of the radio station had earlier phoned them to stop the show in vain. The two-hour talk show which started at 7.30 pm lasted for only 30 minutes.
On April 13, police and other security personnel stormed the studios of 88.6 Kiira FM and forcefully removed Dr Besigye after switching off the radio.
The same played out on April 18 when police stormed Mubende FM and switched it off. Dr Besigye had been on air for just 10 minutes. In other cases, Dr Besigye and other anti-government voices have been blocked from accessing these media houses.
In September 2017, Dr Besigye was blocked from entering Voice of Kigezi to speak on a live show about land matters. Two years earlier, in July 2015, Jinja Municipality West MP Moses Balyeku ordered staff at his Baba FM to switch off the radio station which had started to transmit a live talk show featuring Dr Besigye as a guest.
The list of radio stations where this has happened includes Bunyoro Broadcasting Services, King’s Broadcasting Services, Radio Kitara, Spice FM, Hoima FM, Liberty Broadcasting Services, Nakaseke FM and Tropical FM in Mityana. Some upcountry radio stations have also been compelled to refund advertising money after authorities were stopped from airing Dr Besigye’s adverts.
Dr Besigye and other Opposition politicians have appeared on Kampala-based radio stations recently without much interference from the State and the programmes have ended peacefully. We wonder why the State has chosen to shrink the media space of rural stations.