The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Emirates - Ugandan Journalist Sacked Over Critical Book

A Ugandan journalist working in the United Arab Emirates was recently sacked and deported, after he wrote a book on mistreatment of labourers from poor countries.

The Observer has established that until he was sacked, Yasin Kakande worked with the English-language The National, a government newspaper in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. He was fired for writing an autobiographical novel describing the conditions of migrant workers and media censorship in the United Arab Emirates.

According to a report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Kakande, 33, had worked for The National for six years when he was fired in April. This came months after the publication of his book, "The Ambitious Struggle: An African Journalist's Journey of Hope and Identity In A Land of Migrants."

The RSF report, released last month, quotes Kakande as saying that The National's new editor in chief, Mohamed Al-Otaiba, told him on April 1 that he had committed two offences when he published the book. The first was failing to obtain the management's permission before publishing the book. The other was showing his employer in the most unfavorable light.

He was dismissed with immediate effect, without any notice, forbidden to return to the newspaper's offices and he was given one month to leave the country. His book, the report said, is on the list of publications banned in the UAE. The newspaper's management refused to comment when contacted by RSF.

Kakande's book describes the human trafficking, exploitation, abuses, racism and wage discrimination that migrant workers suffer in the UAE. Kakande's revelations in the book, tally with complaints made by many Ugandans working in UAE, mainly in Dubai, and other places. Many Ugandans claim they are abused and treated inhumanly. Others claim their passports are often confiscated and turned into sex slaves.

The book shines a bright light on the sex trafficking of most migrant women in Dubai. The book highlights tales of sex workers that no decent human being would wish to hear. According to the book, women are bought and sold as chattels and their passports confiscated by pimps on arrival to Dubai. The women remain trapped in the brothels of their pimps, abused by greedy punters.

They live in fear of being beaten up if they disobey their masters or being deported if they report their ordeals. They face gang rapes or are forced to sleep with animals, a practice some cultures in Dubai would allow despite all the evidence of progressive modernity and religious conservatism. One sex worker quoted in the book told Kakande that they would rather die than continue living a life of semi-human and another one vowed never to have children because they feel their wombs are filled with animal semen.

Kakande also told the Migrants Rights Organisation in a statement published online titled; "So, who fired me?" that his bosses acknowledged that they were terminating him before they even read the book, an indication that they were prevailed upon by high-ups.

"As journalists, we should not leave the poor immigrant workers on their own to fight the struggle for their rights," he told RSF.

"How many stories that would have communicated the plight of workers have we decided instead to report in small story briefs or to trash completely because we feared enraging those in authority and getting fired?"

The section of the book titled "Reporting from Dubai" describes the censorship and self-censorship prevailing in the UAE's media and how their executives are in practice an integral part of the government's censorship system.

In Chapter 35, page 141, he writes: "All the PR who worked for companies owned by the ruling families thought they were the sheikhs' de facto censorship arm." Describing the media as "co-opted" on page 145, he shows that journalism is not easy in a country where secrets must not be exposed and certain subjects must be avoided.

Kakande recounts Mohiudin Bin Hendi's first measures on taking over as the head of City 7 TV in May 2007. "He announced a ban on covering all political stories, saying that he never wanted to clash with the country's leadership. He was instructing us with immediate effect to put an end to police, court, or other politically-related stories".

The Commandant Aviation Police Lodovick Awita told The Observer if a person is deported after committing an offence in a different country, there is no reason to act against him or her.

"Unless, when police have interest in the case or have been asked to interrogate him or her," he said.

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