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Radio stations back on the air, operating licences still pending

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - Kampala, 24 October 2010 - Two Buganda Kingdom radio stations have reopened. The stations are Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) 88.8 FM and 89.2 FM. Both stations are housed in Bulange, which is the seat of the Buganda Kingdom. It is located in Mengo, a suburb of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.

CBS went off the air on 10 September 2009 and had its operating license revoked by the Broadcasting Council.

Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that CBS FM Managing Director Godfrey Kaaya Kavuma was called early in the morning of 23 October 2010 by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ministry, who handed him the transmitter that had been confiscated in September 2009.

The handover was witnessed by ICT minister Aggrey Awori, Broadcasting Council (BC) chairman Godfrey Mutabazi and officials from the Buganda government headed by Mr. Kaaya Kavuma.

However the stations have been reopened without the reinstatement of their operating licenses. Mutabazi confirmed to HRNJ-Uganda that the reopening was influenced by the high political tempers in the country ahead of the 2011 general elections.

"The radio was reopened on political grounds, but its reopening is not legally binding," said Mutabazi.

Kavuma noted, "The meeting with the ICT ministry cleared the reopening, but referred us to the Broadcasting Council over our license, which had been revoked. So we are engaging the broadcasting council from today onwards."

Mutabazi said the meeting between CBS management and the Broadcasting Council would convene soon to agree on the license terms and conditions in a free and fair process for all.

The government had set harsh conditions for the reopening of the station, including the sacking of some employees, transferring the radio from Bulange to another location, an end to referring to the station as "the Kabaka's radio" and an end to all anti-government statements, among other conditions.

However, ICT minister Awori told CBS officials during a weekend meeting that it was up to the CBS management to dismiss or retain workers based on their ability to carry out their work.

The CBS radio stations were among the five privately owned stations closed on 10 and 11 September 2009 when people loyal to the Kabaka (King), Buganda's monarch, rioted in Kampala over the government's decision to restrict the Kabaka from touring Kayunga district (Bugerere county), one of the 18 counties that make up Buganda kingdom.

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