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Voice of Kigezi radio staff instigate violence against "New Vision" journalist

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - A "New Vision" reporter, Goodluck Musinguzi was threatened following a hate campaign perpetrated by Voice of Kigezi in its morning radio show programme.

The programme called "Ruhondeza" (meaning to wake-up somebody who is oversleeping, in English) was aired by Voice of Kigezi on 18 October 2010 between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. presented by Julius Balusha and Prosy Ainembabazi.

Musinguzi is "New Vision"'s correspondent in the Kabale district in southwestern Uganda.

Voice of Kigezi is a private radio station co-owned by the Chairman of the Ugandan Broadcasting Council, Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi.

The hate campaign was in retaliation for a news story written by Musinguzi in "Orumuri", a weekly newspaper in a local dialect, and later in "New Vision", a government-owned weekly paper. The story was about two Ugandans who had been arrested and detained in Rwanda over unknown but potentially sensitive security matters.

The two people involved, Didas Ndamira, an accountant with Voice of Kigezi, and Simpson Mpirerwe were reportedly arrested on 19 September and have been in detention since that date.

Musinguzi told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that since the stories were run, the managers at Voice of Kigezi convened a closed meeting over the matter because it involved its staff and decided to take action against him for having written the stories.

"The following day after their meeting, the radio's morning show crew took it upon themselves to hurl insults at me, blaming me for running nonfactual and malicious stories against their staff member," said Musinguzi.

He says that he only wrote about them in terms of work, involvement in politics and their family backgrounds, but he did not include reasons for their arrest and detention.

One of the messages Musinguzi received read, "You're a big cockroach/enyenze that should be completely wiped out on the face of this earth".

Another one said, "You're just like them 'cockroaches' u r a traitor to VOK family. Didas was human like u, be sympathetic to his family at trying moment. Stop peddling lies about the victims in Rwanda." Both messages came on the same day.

The radio station's management denies knowledge of the source of these threatening messages, although admits to having had a progaramme on their radio attacking Musingizi over the stories he wrote in the papers.

"We heard our presenters making these attacks live on air against Musinguzi. We cautioned them after the programme. We are also planning to replace them before the 2011 general elections because this was not their first time to attack personalities while on air," the VOK radio manager told HRNJ-Uganda.

HRNJ-Uganda has learnt that the case was reported to the Kabale police station and the victim has recorded a statement, but nobody has been arrested or summoned for questioning.

Area police insist they summoned the presenters in question. "We summoned these suspects but they have never appeared before us," said the Officer in Charge of Kabale police station, Obongo Deo. He could not give details of when the summons was issued.

HRNJ-Uganda has petitioned the Independent Media Council of Uganda to investigate the matter and take the necessary action. "Media freedoms come with the responsibility of professionalism. All practitioners must follow a professional code of ethics during their work. We don't want to see a situation where someone is killed as a result of a media hate campaign," said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-Uganda has had a lengthy discussion with the area police over the urgency of investigating the matter to establish the source of the text messages that threatened violence against Musinguzi. The Police promised to follow up on the case by 1 November.

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