Uganda's broadcast regulatory body, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), has suspended a talk-show host working for Endigito FM radio in Western Uganda for hosting critical politicians. The radio station also suspended its current affairs programme, 'Ekitandaro,' citing pressure from the government. The show, which airs on Sundays, has been replaced with music. In English, 'Ekitandaro,' means 'a rack for drying utensils.'
Kasiriivu James, aged 33 years, was suspended on 10 January, 2013 after men reportedly from the State House stormed the radio station with a letter they claimed was from the UCC, ordering the journalist's suspension. James was the host of a weekly program called the News Hour, which carried political analysis and commentaries on major news events, as well as World Express, a show which highlighted major global news and events.
"I am currently stopped. I was relieved of my work. My boss told me that he had been instructed to suspend me." Kasiriivu told HRNJ-Uganda.
Endigito (88.3 FM), owned by Hon. Nuru Byamukama, a Member of Parliament (NRM) for Kitagendwa County in the Kamwenge district, broadcasts mainly in local languages, covering Western Uganda. Byamukama is also the proprietor of Hits FM in Fort Portal, which recently suspended all political programmes from air, citing political pressure.
The Executive Director of the UCC, Godfrey Mutabaazi, was non-committal on the matter when contacted. "Please give us time and space to do our work," he told HRNJ-Uganda, adding that, "we get uncomfortable if you are calling to ask how far we have gone. Isn't that intimidation?"
The officer in charge of media crimes at the Criminal Investigations Department, Fred Mirondo, who collected and listened to the recordings of Kasiriivu's programmes, told HRNJ-Uganda last week that they have no case against the journalist and that he should be re-instated. "I have advised them (the UCC) to re-instate the journalist since we have no case against him. The UCC has not explained to me what he did, much as it's true that they suspended him."
"The UCC should desist from curtailing freedom of expression and information. Ugandans have a right to express themselves on matters of governance and the UCC should not worsen the trend of intimidation and hounding free speech. We call on the government to protect and promote free speech and expression as well as media freedom," said HRNJ-Uganda's National Coordinator, Wokulira Ssebaggala.