Gen. David Sejusa’s sustained assault on President Yoweri Museveni appears to have become a ‘hot potato’ for the local media following the police siege that saw the closure of Daily Monitor and Red Pepper as well as Kfm and Ddembe FM.
On Monday, Kfm, which is owned by Monitor Publications, cancelled the live ‘Hot Seat’ talk show that was scheduled to host the former co-ordinator of intelligence services on phone from the United Kingdom.
The station instead carried a re-run of an old show that featured the new Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala.
Meanwhile, the New Vision has not published any story about Gen. Sejusa’s interview with the BBC on Tuesday in which he accused Museveni of creating a ‘political monarchy’ and vowed to remove him from power.
Daily Monitor, the Observer, and the Red Pepper published stories based on the BBC interview.
Newsroom sources at Vision Group, whose New Vision prides itself as Uganda’s ‘newspaper of record’, told ACME they considered the Sejusa story a “landmine”. An editor who declined to be named described it as “a very sensitive issue”.
ACME has learnt that Gen. Sejusa had over the weekend contacted Kfm saying he wanted to be interviewed on the popular ‘Hot Seat’ talk show.
The show host and producers alerted the authorities that they would be hosting the general and asked for government representation.
The deputy government spokesperson, Col. Shaban Bantariza, was cleared to appear on the show. However, when Bantariza went to Kfm towards 7.00p.m when the show was supposed to start, he was told it had been cancelled.
Mr Charles Mwanguhya, the show’s host, had earlier Monday told listeners through Facebook: “Miss tonight’s Kfm Hot Seat only if you must otherwise don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
On Tuesday he offered a cryptic apology to his listeners via Facebook. He wrote:
“Well my friends, being neither a fan of fish nor the bitter, I could not have chocked on a fish bone (I have difficulty eating that stuff) or gotten drunk to fail to deliver on my promise but apologies are still in order and hope you will graciously accept them.”
Mwanguhya declined to comment on what had led to the cancellation of the show when ACME contacted him.
But insiders at Monitor Publications told ACME that although management had initially agreed to air the live show, they pulled it after getting jittery over the delay in receiving a confirmation about representation from the army/government.
It is not clear if the government had objected to the show.
Radio Manager Richard Linga declined to comment, referring ACME to Managing Director Alex Asiimwe.
Mr Asiimwe also declined to comment and referred ACME to executive editor Simon Freeman, who said he knew nothing about what had happened.
“I did not know about the interview,” he said. “No one told me that the General had agreed to appear on KFM. No one told me the interview had been cancelled. I first heard all this when senior colleagues at the Monitor told me on Tuesday morning.”
The executive editor, who reports to the managing director, is in charge of the Daily Monitor and the paper’s weekend editions as well as the news and public affairs programming of KFM.
Member of Parliament Wafula Oguttu, a shareholder and one of the founders of the Monitor, posted on his Facebook timeline on Tuesday: “How disappointing! So the Gen. Sejusa interview on KFM this evening has been sabotaged by someone leaving the Station with no other alternative but to run a recorded programme of Gen. Wamala. Is freedom of the media in our country so endangered?”
Many journalists that ACME has spoken to view these developments as the lingering effects of May media siege that was precipitated by a letter written by Gen. Sejusa on presidential succession.
The general confirmed to the BBC on Tuesday that he had written the letter.
On May 20, the police declared the premises of the Daily Monitor and the Red Pepper crime scenes and shut them purportedly to search for the letter and other documents written by the general. The police also said they were looking for the source that passed the documents to the media houses.
The media houses were reopened on May 31 under a number of conditions that some feared could see the media houses tone down on their coverage of the government.
A few days after reopening, Sunday Monitor dropped a story that had appeared in the paper’s early edition singling out President Museveni’s dismal performance in a survey of African leaders for the year 2012.
However Monitor’s management has consistently dismissed suggestions that the country’s leading independent newspaper had caved in under pressure from the government and was jittery about running stories critical of the president.