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Radio host suspended for broadcasting debate on homosexuality

(Media Institute/IFEX) - The Uganda Broadcasting Council (BC) has suspended a presenter of the popular Capital FM radio station for allegedly violating "minimum broadcasting standards".

Popular presenter Gaetano Kaggwa's offence was that, on 22 August 2007, he hosted a gay activist and self-confessed lesbian who allegedly used what the Council considers "unacceptable language". During the show two co-presenters opposed homosexuality while the suspended host said that he had "no problem with it".

On 28 August, Kaggwa, who co-presents the Capital FM's morning show, was barred from going on air at least until 4 September when his suspension will be reviewed in another meeting between the Council and Capital FM proprietors.

Capital FM is owned by William Pike, former editor-in-chief of the "New Vision" newspaper, and Patrick Quarcoo. Pike and Quarcoo own three other radio stations in Kenya and Uganda.

The suspension of the presenter, the first of its kind in the recent history of Uganda's media, was communicated by the Council to Capital FM Programme Controller George Manyali during a meeting in Kampala on 28 August. Secretary to the Broadcasting Council Kagole Kivumbi said the action was meant to protect the public.

The letter inviting Capital FM to the meeting was addressed to the station manager, a post that does not exist at the radio station. Quarcoo and Pike are joint managing directors.

Manyali, who represented the station, met with Kivumbi and Council Chairman Godfrey Mutabaazi, who reportedly asked him whether his station has a pre-broadcasting listening device. Since Manyali is not the registered proprietor of the station, he was asked to leave and told to take his presenter off the air until the matter is resolved.

Ugandan laws, including the Constitution, prohibit homosexuality. Section 145 of the Penal Code, under "unnatural offences", states that: "a person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life."

The Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage. Ugandans are not accustomed to debating freely matters of homosexuality because of the gag. It was not until the "Daily Monitor" newspaper published a lead story on 11 August containing the number of gay organisations and registered followers that debate emerged on the matter. The story laid the ground for gays to address a news conference in Kampala for the first time.

Conservative Christian churches organised a demonstration against the gays and accused the "Monitor" of being influenced by gay staff members.

The radio stations with a habit of debating the top stories in the newspapers picked the story for their talk shows, and Capital FM seems to have paid the price.

The summoning of Kaggwa, one of the more popular hosts, is intended to silence debate on the topic, which is gaining momentum ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting slated for Kampala in November.

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