Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Radio talk-show under threat

Kitgum, 21st/Nov/2011; Kitgum based radio Mighty Fire talk- show host Stephen Komakech is under threats from district security officials over his journalistic work.
Komakech who doubles as a reporter is allegedly receiving threats from the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Pagimu – Brigade Intelligence Officer (IO) and the District internal Security Officer (DISO) among others. The trio is accusing the talk-show host for airing programmes and news pieces that are critical to the government.
Human Rights network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has noted that one of the stories the radio and the journalist have been instrumental in is the trial of Kitgum RDC Lieutenant Okot Santo Lapolo over corruption and abuse of office.
The Inspectorate of Government from September of 2011 has been investigating Lapolo over allegations that he diverted over 1700 pieces of iron sheets meant to be given to former internally displaced people in Northern Uganda to his personal gain.
Since 18th/Nov/2011, Komakech has been receiving phone calls from security circles in the district summoning him for interrogation. Information obtained by HRNJ-Uganda indicates that on 19th/Nov/2011, there were attempts to arrest Komakech and the radio’s acting manager but the plan was reversed due to absence of DISO and the Brigade IO in the District. 
Sources told HRNJ-Uganda that on the 14th Nov 2011 Komakech allegedly survived being way-laid by assailants on his way after attending the trial of RDC Lapolo at the Anti Corruption Court in Kampala.
“I wanted to use the Night Bus back to Kitgum but at around 3:00, I received a call from security circles telling me that if I was at the Radio, I should leave because plain clothed security operatives had been dispatched to arrest me” Komakech said, he delayed his trip back to Kitgum to the following morning when he got the whole story of the sinister plot against him and his colleagues.
“A credible source within the Security told me that I would be picked together with my Acting Manager for interrogation and then the probability of returning is zero”. Komakech narrated.
Northern Uganda region has got two journalists namely; Patrick Otim (Mega FM) and Augustine Okello (Rhino FM) who are on remand in Luzira prison on upsetting treason charges. The duo was brought to court through habeas corpus.
When HRNJ-Uganda contacted the Intelligence Officer 401Brigade Captain Nathan Esebo, he instead questioned and asked whether we don’t know the reason why people get summoned by security! However, the Kitgum District Police Commander Nasur Oringa denied any involvement in threatening the talk-show host.
“We condemn in the strongest term possible the manner in which such public officials are using their office to intimidate and cause panic to the journalists and the entire journalism profession in the region. We are not surprised that the former war tone region has had two journalists languishing in prison on treason charges without being tried” said HRNJ-Uganda Board Chairman Robert Ssempala.
HRNJ-Uganda calls on the Uganda Human Rights Commission, United Nations Office of High Commission for Human Rights and appointing authorities of these officials to intervene, investigate the conduct of these district officials and take appropriate action once found guilty.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road at Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

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