Two privately-owned radio stations in Jinja, a city in eastern Uganda remain off air almost two weeks after they were switched off by security operatives over election-related reports.
Busoga One FM was switched off on January 14 – the day for the presidential and parliamentary elections over accusations of inciting violence.
According to Innocent Anyole, the radio’s station manager, they were broadcasting provisional results from the presidential and parliamentary elections when they received a phone call from the Kiira region police spokesperson Hajji Abbey Ngako accusing them of inciting violence.
At about 6:30 pm, the police, commanded by the Kiira regional police commander (RPC), Dauda Hiriga, stormed the radio station and switched it off.
A week later, on January 21, another radio station, Baba FM, was switched off over similar accusations.
Its reporter, Richard Mutoigo who was making live updates from the January 20 Local Government elections, was arrested outside the Electoral Commission (EC) tally centre in Jinja city at Jinja Senior Secondary School over allegations of inciting violence.
“He was our official reporter at the tally centre, when he started giving us live updates about what was happening, the police arrested him. I am not sure of the charges brought against him, but we are trying to secure his release and we will update you accordingly,” said Aggrey Irongo, the Baba Fm station manager.
The Kiira region police spokesperson Abbey Ngako said that the radio stations were shut down for inciting violence.
“We always have problems of inciting members of the community by the media. Busoga One FM was shut down for inciting violence and announcing preliminary results. We got orders from the Deputy Inspector General of Police… he sent a representative who shut down the radio. Another was shut down by Uganda Communications Commission over the same issue,” Ngako said.
The previous day, Hakim Kanyere a Jinja based NBS TV correspondent was assaulted by a police officer from Walukuba police station after he rushed to a polling station adjacent to the police station after he had been tipped suspected pre-ticked ballots had been delivered to the polling station in a black polythene bag contrary to the normal practice of delivering ballot papers in a sealed ballot box.
Kanyere added that when he reached the said polling station, he found a standoff between National Unity Platform (NUP) supporters and EC officials.
The NUP supporters were accusing the EC officials of ballot stuffing. As soon as he started filming the standoff, he was ordered by the OC Station Walukuba police station to stop but did not pay heed, arguing that he had been accredited to cover elections.
The police then pounced on the journalist, beat him up, tore his shirt and his camera was destroyed in the process.
He was thereafter arrested and taken to Walukuba police station where he was detained for thirty minutes and released without charge.
On the same day, according to a report by Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), William Kaddu Nyanzi a Prime Radio correspondent in Mityana district was allegedly assaulted by army officers while returning from covering mayoral and local council elections in different parts of the district.
He told HRNJ-Uganda that at about 9:00am on the same day, he found a Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) vehicle carrying army officers who had blocked the road at Kiyudaya in Mityana district. Despite identifying himself as a journalist, he was assaulted and arrested for allegedly not observing the curfew time.