Friday, 26 February 2016


is the 2016 presidential race gathers steam, Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) with its huge boost of state resources, thanks to the power of incumbency, will not take chances – not with the media. Whereas democracy requires that governments tolerate the views of even those they hugely disagree with, this principle is yet to be learnt. Whereas it is not uncommon for shows hosting opposition figures to be interrupted – with power blackouts among others – the crack down on what the regime terms unfair media is likely to take more complex twists.

Just Thursday, a radio station in Mbarara, Western Broadcasting Services (Webs) Endigito, was switched off after it hosted ex-premier Amama Mbabazi who is now challenging Museveni. But the industry regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission, insists the switch-off was due to license arrears amounting to Shs 38m. And whether Mbabazi’s show and the station’s closure were mere coincidence, your guess is as good as mine. But the show host James Kasirivu told his followers on social media he was not surprised. He has seen this happen in the buildup to the 2011 polls, he reminisced.As we await the media ownership-state relations dynamics to come into play, and possibly reverse the bad blood between NTV and the regime, the two cases in this pieces, Webs FM and NTV, should not be treated in isolation of other underreported or forgotten acts of media gagging. Reports have indicated blocking of opposition candidates from accessing media houses. And nothing beats Museveni’s utterance’s that some media, NTV inclusive, were enemy media. We hope that the clampdown is not the leopard’s response to the media’s insertion of microphone’s into the animal’s anus.YEt, surprisingly, a study by media watchdog the African Centre for Media Excellence indicates that NTV had given more airtime to Museveni, a whole 42 per cent chunk. It should be Mbabazi and Museveni’s four-time competitor Dr Kizza Besigye complaining.

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