Uganda: Regional Government Officials Can Vet Radio Talk Show Guests, Says Minister


Resident District Commissioners have the authority to vet guests on radio talk shows to take care of security in their jurisdictions, Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko has said.

The minister, who was meeting a team of international journalists and media rights activists in Kampala last week, said if RDCs "sufficiently" suspect a guest is going to make statements with a negative bearing on security, they should block such a speaker from accessing a radio.

"If a broadcaster airs out information that threatens the security of the area, the RDC has the authority to summon the mangers or proprietors of that station. If he knows that the person they are going to host is going to say things that affect our security, the RDC can stop him," Ms Masiko said.

She was responding to concerns put to her by the visitors about draconian laws, harsh treatment of journalists by public officials, arrest and recent murders of journalists.
Masiko said the Press and Journalists (Amendment) Bill 2009 does not exist, although principles for it have been developed and approved by Cabinet. The media fraternity is opposed to the Bill that among others introduces annual licensing of newspapers by the government.

The minister also said the government would appeal a recent Constitutional Court ruling nullifying the offence of sedition. "You shouldn't rejoice because we are appealing," she said.

Courtney Radisch of Freedom House, an American-based organisation that advocates free institutions, said Uganda was not making any progress in media freedom ratings--with the latest placing it at 109th position out of 195 countries. She said the poor ratings are due to continued retention of repressive laws, administrative harassments and poverty--all negating journalists' work.

Earlier, the team comprising senior journalists and activists, met top managers of Monitor Publications Limited led by the Managing Director, Dr Gitahi Githinji and Managing Editor Daniel Kalinaki.

Dr Githinji assured the team of the company's commitment to professional journalism. "I believe in patriotism as media houses go about their work but that patriotism should be seen in terms of what benefits the citizens and not the government of the day," Dr Githinji told the guests.