Government Bans Critical Song from Radio Airwaves

Kampala, 24th/September/2012; the State’ broadcast regulatory body Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has banned radios from airing of a new song by renowned local artiste Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, pending investigations into claims that its critical of the Capital City Authority’s Executive Director Jennifer Musisi.

The song ‘Tugambire ku Jennifer’, translated to mean ‘please talk to Jennifer on our behalf’ was released early this month by Ssentamu a.k.a Bobi Wine, the self-proclaimed ‘Ghetto president’. The translated chorus says ‘Tell Jennifer on our behalf to reduce on her harshness because the town is ours’.
The song raises Kampala’s problems ranging from increased murders, robberies to eviction of vendors off Kampala streets. The song also allegedly points out that Jennifer’s ruthlessness is worsening the lives of poor city dwellers.

Art. 29 1 (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media. Also, the regional charters and international conventions the Ugandan government has signed provide for this right and everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; such a right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of their choice.

Although the Executive Director, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi could not name a particular complainant, he told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that they had received complaints from several people about the intentions of the song. “Several people complained to the commission that the song was abusive, so we can’t allow the airwaves to be used to insult others. The song was not banned, but we have instructed airwaves not to play the song until our investigations are complete, so that we can pronounce ourselves on it. We got the song from our data bank, and we are investigating it” said Mutabaazi.

Eng. Mutabazi however could not tell how long the investigations would take before the commission can pronounce itself on the song.

In 2009, the UCC arbitrarily and excessively closed down five private radio stations and also banned open air radio talk shows which were providing platforms to the citizens to check those in power. All of them are back on air and the last one was re-opened late 2010, but none of the media managers or journalists was taken to court to answer for the alleged flouting of broadcasting regulations.

Bobi Wine told HRNJ-Uganda that the song was not an attack on any person but his right to freedom of expression as a stakeholder in the capital. He refuted claims that it was directed at Jennifer Musisi. He warned UCC against being used to serve individual interests. “Let me advise the Commission to remember that they are mandated to serve all the people and not a person. Let it listen to what the people are trying to communicate instead of intimidating their messenger. Listen to the voice of the people and understand instead of misunderstanding, communicate, don’t miss-communicate!”

Asked whether the airwaves ban on the song was communicated to Bobi, Mutabaazi said that as a commission, they only deal with broadcasters and not producers, so they did not need to do so at the material time.

Bobi said he was set to launch the song next month in October, although it was still not clear whether Musisi would allow holding the music concert in the city. He however defended his song saying, “Jennifer does not mean Jennifer Musisi the Executive Director of KCCA.”
“The Commission should accord the artiste a fair hearing since investigations are on-going and avoid misusing its powers to curtail his right to freedom of expression” Said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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