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Radio station succumbs to pressure, suspends political talk show

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Masindi, 5 October 2011 - The Kitara FM radio station has reportedly suspended its political talk show and replaced it with a sports programme, due to pressure from the Resident District Commissioner.

The station's director reportedly made the decision after he attended a district security meeting in which the issue was discussed. The suspended talk show, "Kikukwasireho", meaning "What concerns you" in English, aired every Sunday between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. and was hosted by Samuel Kajumba, a.k.a Lucky Sam.

The talk show sparked controversy in September and Kajumba has since been questioned by various district security officials, who have demanded an apology from him.

The problem stemmed from an 18 September broadcast of the talk show, in which Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers were accused of using brutal methods to arrest Roger Musinguzi, the proprietor of a bar in Masindi town. The Masindi Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Maj. David Matovu, has reportedly reiterated the need for Kajumba to apologise to him. Matovu has accused Kajumba of misleading the public and causing unnecessary confusion to besmirch the otherwise positive image of the security forces.

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learned that Matovu is allegedly demanding that the radio station issue an apology, and that the station's managers have subsequently pressured Kajumba to apologise.

HRNJ-Uganda also notes that Kajumba was turned away by his bosses on 2 October when he reported for work. "When I went to the radio for the talk show, my boss asked me why I had not yet sent my apology to RDC Matovu. He told me not to tempt him to lose his patience," Kajumba said on 5 October. He added that he contemplated apologising to save his job, even though he believes he is innocent of the accusations levelled against him.

When HRNJ-Uganda contacted Kitara FM Director Abdu Alifaijo Kiirya, he declined to comment on the developments, saying he does not discuss internal station matters outside the station's premises.

"We question RDC Matovu's interest in the apology. We fear that such an apology could be used against the radio station or presenter based on an accusation of supporting someone who deserted from the army since the person who was brutally arrested was court-martialed, charged with desertion and pleaded guilty," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda calls on RDC Matovu to pursue his case in a court of law, rather than harassing the journalist. The organisation also calls upon the radio station managers to exercise their independence and professionalism in order to defend their employee.

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