Editors note: The suspended radio presenters named below were cleared by UCC to resume work on Thursday 7 December, 2017.
Endigyito Radio is the latest FM station to be punished for what the regulator says is a breach of minimum broadcasting standards. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) suspended the producer and presenter of a political talk show on the Mbarara-based FM station pending investigations.
“…The Commission in accordance with Section 29(b) of the UCC Act, directs you to submit recordings of the programme ‘World Express’ hosted and presented by a one Kasirivu ‘The Great’…..”a letter from the regulator to the station management dated 21 November 2017 reads in part.
The minimum broadcasting standards prohibit, among other things, broadcast of content that promotes violence and ethnic prejudice, is likely to create public insecurity or violence, and is biased.
World Express, which runs weekly between 2-5:30 p.m. and is broadcast in Luganda, is intended to discuss topical global issues. Its presenter James Kasirivu said that UCC’s concern could have stemmed from a recent programme on the Paradise Papers, a trove of leaked electronic documents on offshore finance in which Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa was adversely mentioned.
“I picked the story from Al-Jazeera, talked about it a bit and then played an audio recording on the same,” Mr Kasirivu said, “I think this is one the stories they are interested in.”
Station Manager Bonny Maridadi said that Mr Kasirivu’s political discussions on various topics could have been misinterpreted.
“Sometimes when he is talking about former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, he refers to him as Mzee,” Mr Maridadi said, “I think some people think he is talking about President Museveni.”
Mr Maridadi said that this is not the first time in a year that the station is grappling with undue pressure from the regulator for which he says are unjustifiable reasons. He said that because of the pressure, they have had to rid the programme of any national stories.
On 1 December, the presenter and the station’s leadership met with UCC officials and were not told exactly what crime they had committed. Instead, UCC officials asked them to tone down on the show’s political content, avoid national matters, and stick to foreign news.
UCC official Pamela Ankunda said that Mr Kasirivu ,suspended for two weeks now, would be reinstated because he had admitted he was in the wrong and had complied with the regulator’s demands.
Mr Kasirivu said, however, that he only accepted having political content in the show, not breaking the law.
“They asked me if there was politics in my programme and I said yes. I said that if politics was bad, then I was at fault. That is what I said.”
Mr Kasirivu’s programme is presently running without him and without a discussion of national news stories.
Mr Desmond Kyokwijuka and Mr Ronald Agaba of Kanungu Broadcasting Service (KBS) have been on suspension for two months now since UCC issued a directive similar to what it handed Endigyito.
Before his suspension, Mr Kyokwijuka was a presenter of a daily radio show titled ‘Global Focus’ on the Kanungu-based FM station. The show, much like that of Mr Kasirivu, is a news and current affairs programme. It is broadcast in the local Rukiga language.
Mr Kyokwijuka and Mr Agaba(the station manager), say they don’t understand UCC’s charge against them.
“In one of the programmes,”said Mr Kyokwijuka, “I talked about Libya and how they demonstrated against Muammar Gaddafi. UCC said that I was inciting violence with this talk. But surely, if a listener calls and asks for the history of Libya, is it a crime to tell them the truth?”
The two men said they too were summoned for a meeting at UCC, but that most of the demands made during the meeting where technical in nature.
Ms Ankunda said that the KBS’ problems were technical and not political.
“If it was technical, why is it that we are being stopped from working?” Mr Agaba said.
Mr Charles Byaruhanga, one of KBS’ directors, is optimistic that the duo will soon be reinstated.
“We agreed [with UCC] on a way forward and they will soon be back on.”
KBS and Endigyito Radio broadcast to Mbarara, Bushenyi, Kanungu, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Kasese, Rubanda, Kisoro, Kamwenge, among others.