Monday, October 25, 2010

HRNJ-Uganda Alert: Two CBS radio stations re-open without a license.

Kampala, 24th/10/20; Two Buganda Kingdom radio stations have been re-opened. The stations include Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) 88.8fm and 89.2fm both housed in Bulange which is the seat of the Buganda Kingdom. It is found in Mengo- a suburb of Kampala, the Capital city of Uganda CBS was switched off air on the 10th/Sept/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 morning on Saturday 23th/10/2010 by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ministry and handed over to him the transmitter they had confiscated last September.

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

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

“The radio was re-opened on political grounds, but its re-opening is not legally binding.” Says the Broadcasting Council chairman Godfrey Mutabazi.

CBS Managing Director Godfrey Kaaya Kavuma has also confirmed this new finding. “The meeting with the ICT ministry cleared the re-opening, but referred us to the Broadcasting Council over our license which was revoked. So we are engaging the broadcasting council from today”.

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

Government had set harsh conditions for the re-opening, including sacking of some employees, transferring the radio from Bulange to an outside place, stopping calling the station the Kabaka’s radio and desists from all anti-government statements, among others.

However the ICT minister Aggrey Awori told CBS officials during a weekend meeting that it was up to the CBS management to sack and retain workers basing on their ability to work professionally.

CBS radio stations are among the five privately owned stations closed on September 10th and 11th 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.

The other radios closed included; Radio Two locally known as ‘Akaboozi’, Catholic Church based Radio Sapientia and Ssuubi FM all of which were re-opened without any charges preferred against them despite government’ accusations of inciting violence flouting broadcasting regulations.

However CBS staff went to court protesting against wrongful closure of their radio and rendering them unemployed.

Government also went to the same court accusing CBS of causing the death 27 people during the riots but the counter case was thrown out by court. The hearing of CBS staff case is on-going.

Kavuma told HRNJ-Uganda that the two radios since Saturday 23rd/10/2010 evening re-opened with music and later on Sunday 24th/10/2011 with news as a way of testing the equipments. “The equipments were wrongly removed from the transmitter section. We cannot reinstate all the programmes straight away before ascertaining the capacity of our machines” Kavuma said. Most programmes are likely to resume in a week time from now.

HRNJ-Uganda welcomes the re-opening of the two radios but condemn the political interference in the work of regulatory bodies especially the Broadcasting Council. We call on all Ugandans and the government to embrace the self regulation mechanism. “The media to be meaningful to the people of Uganda and to be able to correct its mistakes must be independent from the state” said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala.

For more information contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road, Mengo- Bulange, Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Preparatory School
Tel: +256-414-272934 /+256-414-667627 / +256-701-810079
Toll Free helpline: 0800144155
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