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Three journalists suspended after hosting Ugandan opposition leader on radio show

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks to journalists, outside his house, in Kasangati, Uganda, 19 May 2011
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye speaks to journalists, outside his house, in Kasangati, Uganda, 19 May 2011

AP PHOTO/Ronald Kabuubi

This statement was originally published on on 23 July 2015.

On 21 July 2015, three journalists were suspended over hosting an opposition presidential hopeful who is also the former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, on Baba FM radio, without permission from the radio management. The radio was switched off about 15 minutes into the hour-long talk show, in which Besigye was to discuss his political campaign in Busoga, reportedly on the orders of the station management.

Baba FM belongs to the Member of Parliament for Jinja West constituency, Moses Grace Balyeku who doubles as the ruling NRM party chairperson for Jinja district. Besigye had been hosted along with other Members of Parliament, including Dr. Francis Epatait, Geoffrey Ekanya, Barbara Nekesa and Hon. Ssesaga. Besigye is on a country-wide campaign to stand for the country's presidency on his party ticket. He is tussling out with the FDC President, Gen. Mugisha Muntu. NRM endorsed President Museveni to stand as a sole party candidate for the presidency – a portfolio he has held since 1986.

The victim journalists include Anyole Innocent, who hosted the program – he was the Programme Manager at the station. Others are Isabirye Aga David, the Station's News Editor (who sources say was accused of being an opposition sympathizer) and Alton Kasolo, a morning show presenter who they accused of posting pro-opposition material on his Facebook wall.

“The program ended abruptly just after about 15 minutes into the scheduled one-hour duration. It's the listeners who walked into the studios and informed me that the radio had gone off. The engineers were not aware of what had happened,” Anyole told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda. He said that he was suspended the following day. “On 22nd July, 2015, I was suspended indefinitely by my immediate boss, the General Manager, Michael Kifubangabo, that I hosted Besigye without the knowledge of management. The suspension was communicated verbally,” Anyole, who had hosted the show since December 2010, told HRNJ-Uganda.

Another victim told HRNJ-Uganda that he was not given any reason for his suspension. “They didn't give me a reason but only told me that we were suspended until the board sits to determine our fate. I will update you on any developments and what steps we are likely to take,” Aga said. The trio was immediately replaced with other workmates.

Efforts to talk to Hon. Balyeku were futile, as he did not pick his calls. The General Manager, Kifubangabo Michael declined to explain the reasons for the suspension, “Have you seen their dismissal letter? Have you talked to them? Have they complained that they have been dismissed, or you even handle issues where no one has complained to you? You may be investing something which is non-existent,” Kifubangabo told HRNJ-Uganda on phone.

“This is a sad moment for the media in Uganda. The media is obligated to remain fair and objective, as a way of promoting free debate on National matters of public interest. We believe that the journalists needed to be heard in this matter prior to their suspension. We appeal to the station to re-instate without any stringent conditions. Said Robert Ssempala,” HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator.

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