Monday, November 29, 2010

Government denying Besigye access to radios, says opposition coalition

There's no doubt that the state media coverage of presidential campaigns favours the incumbent, Yoweri K. Museveni. In this Daily Monitor article published on November 19, Francis Mugerwa and Gerald Bareebe report about Dr. Kizza Besigye being denied radio airtime in Bunyoro

The Inter-Party Cooperation has issued a statement protesting what they said were deliberate moves by the government to deny their presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, access to voters by blocking him from local radio stations.

“This is a deliberate effort to deny Dr Besigye opportunities to address issues that affect the general public. Radio stations should be compelled by the regulator to offer fair coverage to all candidates vying for public office,” the statement issued yesterday, said.

Fundamental role: The statement notes that radio plays a fundamental role in informing and educating the public about the issues that affect them.

“Majority of Ugandans live in rural areas where radio is the only source of information. Denying them information … takes away their fundamental rights of freedom to make their own choices … Ugandans needs all the information about presidential candidates so that they make an informed decision come 2011,” the statement reads in part.
This comes less than 24 hours after Dr Besigye’s talk-show on Kagadi-Kibaale Community Radio (KKCR) ended prematurely when the station was switched off 20 minutes into the programme.

It also comes three days after six radio stations in Bunyoro denied Dr Besigye access to their airwaves, citing fear of retribution from the State. These stations include Bunyoro Broadcasting Services, King’s Broadcasting Services, Kitara FM, Spice FM, Radio Hoima and Liberty Broadcasting Services.

The Electoral Commission yesterday condemned the Kagadi incident with deputy spokesman Paul Bukenya, saying he was surprised that such an incident has again happened.

Mr Bukenya said the EC met officials from the Media Council, the Media Centre and the Broadcasting Council last week and urged them to guarantee access to media to all the candidates.

The spokesperson of Dr Besigye’s campaign, Ms Margaret Wokuri, yesterday said the move to block Dr Besigye from speaking on rural radio stations is done deliberately by the ruling NRM party to derail his presidential campaign. 

FDC officials yesterday said Dr Besigye’s show on KKCR Radio started at 9pm and was supposed to end at 10pm but at about 9:19pm the management allegedly switched off the radio claiming that the generator had developed technical problems.

The IPC secretariat accused Mr Julius Mwalimu Musheshe, the chairman of Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme, an organisation that owns the station, of ordering the management to switch off the radio.

For about one-and-a half hours, Dr Besigye and other FDC officials remained around the station premises waiting for the radio to get back on air. As it approached 11pm, they left following a communication from management that it would lock the premises by midnight.

The Hoima FDC chairman, Mr Jackson Wabyoona, said the party had paid Shs1 million for the show adding that they have instructed the Kibaale FDC district chairman, Mr Muhereza Ayebale Kanyarutooke to recover the money from the station management. 

Mr Anthony Lwanga, the station manager, confirmed the incident but dismissed reports linking the matter to government sabotage.

“The station went off air 20 minutes after Dr Besigye has started talking but that was due to a technical problem. When the generator went off, we tried our best and I was constantly updating Dr Besiye who was still seated in our studio that things will get better,” Mr Lwanga said. “By the time the generator was repaired, he had already gone and we tried to get him back but it was late.” 

The Uganda Media Council yesterday issued a statement warning private and public media houses against denying candidate airwaves.

“The Media Council reminds proprietors of radio and television that public airwaves are held in trust and so, if one is entrusted with a frequency ….should not hold it as a private property,” the statement read in part.

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