Uganda “suspends” 39 journalists for covering politician’s arrest

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the orders that the Uganda Communications Commission has given to 13 radio and TV stations to “suspend” a total of 39 news executives and producers in a crude attempt to stop them from covering opposition activity.

In communiqué issued on 30 April, the UCC accused the seven radio stations (Akaboozi FM, Beat FM, Capital FM, CBS FM, Pearl FM, Sapientia FM and Simba FM) and six TV channels (NTV-Uganda, NBS, TBBS, Bukedde TV, Kingdom TV and Salt TV) of misreporting the news in a manner “likely to create public insecurity or violence.”

RSF has learned that the suspensions were prompted by their coverage of opposition politician Bobi Wine’s arrest and custody on 29 April. A popular singer and member of parliament, Wine has announced his intention to run against President Yoweri Museveni in 2021.

As well as claiming that the 13 media outlets had misrepresented the facts “in a manner likely to mislead or cause alarm,” the UCC accused them of carrying “extremist or anarchic messages, including incitement of violence for political and/or other purposes.”

“These hastily issued suspension orders constitute a crude attack on media independence and the freedom to cover a public interest story,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “They will help to create a climate of fear in those media outlets that still dare to cover opposition news. This policy of intimidating media and journalists can only help to fuel the current political tension in Uganda.”

In the first half of April, the police carried out heavy-handed raids on three provincial radio stations in order to cut short interviews with an opposition politician.

Uganda is ranked 125th out of 180 countries inRSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index after falling a total of 28 places since 2015.

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Updated on 02.05.2019