22 December 2013

Uganda: Radio One's Basajja Mivule On Forced 'Leave'

Outspoken Radio One and Radio Two (Akaboozi ku Bbiri) presenter Basajja Mivule said in a weekend interview that he was compelled to stay away from work, days after his boss told us that none of the radio staff had been suspended in a government clampdown on radio stations deemed to "incite violence."

The news will cause more concern for media and human rights activists, as it seems to point to renewed government efforts to crack down on critical media houses and personalities. Last week, Radio One bosses said Mivule was away on official leave.

Along with Simon Kaggwa Njala, Mivule were asked to step aside at the urging of Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Samuel Mpimbaza Hashaka. Hashaka wrote to the radio station's management protesting the two presenters' conduct, on November 5.

Hashaka's November 5 letter came a day after Mivule hosted Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, whose utterances, according to Hashaka's letter, tarnished the image of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and that of government.

"This is to inform you that I have noted that Akaboozi and Radio [One] are increasingly being used to deliberately tarnish the image of government, KCCA and to frustrate government programmes," Hashaka's letter reads in part.

The radio management responded by suspending Mivule and his colleague Simon Kaggwa Njala, although the station's Operations Manager Jeff Mulinde Kiwanuka denied the duo had been suspended.

"Mivule is on leave and he will resume work when the leave lapses while Kaggwa Njala has been re-assigned in another department where we had a gap. If this gap gets filled, he will resume his normal duties," Mulinde told The Observer in an earlier interview last week.

But on Friday, Mivule separately told us that he had, indeed, been asked to keep away.

"I have never sought for leave, because we normally fill in forms if we are seeking for leave, I have never done that, and if you are given leave, you are given a date on which you have to report back on duty but I don't know my return date," he said.

How it began:

On November 10, Mulinde inform Mivule that General Manager Maria Kiwanuka (Finance, Planning and Economic Development minister) had decided that he goes for a one-week leave.

"I asked him why, and he told me that the general manager was under pressure, and when I asked who the source of pressure was, he told me that someone above had complained about me," Mivule said.

When the week elapsed, Michael Kisenyi, the station's production manager, called and told him that he was now free to resume his talk shows.

"I did my Sunday show, but on Monday, about 20 minutes to my show, Jeff [Mulinde] called to stop me from doing the show because the fire was still on but did not explain the source of the fire, and who the specific complainant was," he said.

His first suspicions were the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and ministry of Trade and Industry owing to a campaign he had recently launched against fake products.

Mivule joined Akaboozi ku bbiri about six years ago, and has always been based at the Dastur street-based radio station, but is now ensconced at his farm.

"I don't know my fate, we [Mivule and Njala] are no longer there, and we have not been assigned anything as [Mulinde] claims," he said.

Mivule does not want to discuss Hashaka, the man who caused his suspension because that would be stooping too low.

"At least I'm of a higher status than him [Hashaka], I would be embarrassing myself to discuss a man who can't measure up to me in anything," he said.

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