Kitgum, 27th/September/2012; Media practitioners from Kitgum district under their umbrella body Kitgum District Media Practitioners’ Association (KIMEPA) have slapped a news blackout on the Kitgum district chairperson, Luka Nyeko for alleged persistent attacks on the media.
In their statement to the media and other stakeholders, dated 19th/September/2012, KIMEPA accused Nyeko of attacking a Kitgum town based radio station Might Fire FM that several of its staff was engaged in partisan activities and promoting opposition interests in the district. He accused the radio of being anti government, courting urban terrorism, inciting violence and causing unnecessary alarm. He threatened the radio staff and management with arrest over the alleged crimes.
On 18th of September 2012, Nyeko also ordered two journalists out of a nodding disease review meeting at the district council hall without tangible explanation. They included Komakech Steven of Mighty Fire FM and Jimmy Wokorach Oboi of the Vision Group who doubles as the chairperson of the media association.
Might Fire is a Christian founded radio station broadcasting predominantly in Luo. It covers the districts of Acholi sub region, parts of South Sudan, West Nile, Karamoja and Lango sub regions.
KIMEPA accused Nyeko of persistently using the district council sessions and other public events to criminalize the media. “Some of the most salient verbal attacks include among others; labeling media houses anti-regime, accusing the staff of Mighty Fire Radio for courting urban terrorism….” Read the statement.
KIMEPA vice chairperson, Jimmy Wokorach Oboi told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that the media blackout commenced on 20th September 2012 and would remain in place until the chairperson unconditionally apologizes to the media practitioners in writing.
However when contacted by HRNJ-Uganda, Nyeko ruled out giving any such apologies, “I don’t have a problem with Might Fire FM, but it seems they have a problem with me. In fact, they are terrorizing the people of Kitgum as a radio. I will never apologize to them. Apologize for what? That’s something that is impossible. Let them fight and I will now come out as the district chairman and engage them with full force.” Nyeko retorted
Might Fire’s Station Manager, David Oketch told HRNJ-Uganda that he did not know why Nyeko was bitter with the radio. “We just don’t know what his problem is with us, I think he is not well-versed with the media freedoms and practice. We even gave the district free airtime of two hours in our ‘Community hour’ program from Monday to Friday to talk about education, production, business, health and security, but they don’t fully utilize it.
HRNJ-Uganda has established that Nyeko has asked Might Fire for copies of its registration certificate, the initial proposal of the radio, work-plan and budget, list of all benefactors, names of all staff and their qualifications and names of the board members among others. He has also asked for a certificate of membership of KIMEPA. All these would be reviewed at the district security council meeting scheduled for 02nd October 2012.
When contacted by HRNJ-Uganda, the Kitgum District Police Commander Nasur Oringa, dismissed any terrorism incidents in the area, saying that the police have not got any such information or acts of terrorism in the district. He cautioned politicians against using terrorism claims against others without evidence.
“It is dangerous for such a high profile leader to attack the media organizations and individual journalists at public gatherings. It puts the journalists’ lives in great danger at the hands of mob justice. Leaders should refrain from making statements that have the potential to incite the public against journalists. HRNJ-U calls upon Mr. Nyeko to withdraw the claims or will be held personally liable for the safety of media practitioners” Said HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator