By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
As the rest of the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3, here in Uganda, the media was facing the heaviest clampdown in years.
On the eve of this sacred day for journalists, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), on orders of President Yoweri Museveni, made an announcement.
The announcement was ordering media houses to suspend at least 39 senior journalists from different independent broadcasters across Uganda.
Their crime? They were simply doing their job, as per the dictates and tenets of this noble calling; holding those with power accountable.
They had dared expose excesses of the Museveni junta, as it unleashed all sorts of torture on opposition politicians who dared speak out against his misrule.
The latest incident involved the brutal arrest of People Power firebrand, musician-cum-politician MP Robert Kyagulanyi, best known as Bobi Wine.
Mr Kyagulanyi, has of late awakened Ugandans, especially the youth, to the consciousness of the excesses of this regime, suffered for the past 33 years of the Museveni junta.
Remember, Uganda is the youngest nation in the world, with close to 80 percent of the population all below the age of 30.
Anybody, then, who will try to galvanise this critical mass – all born into the Museveni regime – clearly sends the dictator and his minions into shivers.
This probably explains the brutality that Mr Kyagulanyi, a darling of the youth, with whom they speak the same language, a very dangerous enemy, at least in the eyes of Museveni.
Now, back to the clampdown; the media personalities who have been slapped with the ban without even an attempt at due process by UCC, are being accused of sharing with their audience, the despicable brutality that Uganda Police and other militia-like outfits like the SFC and CMI, meted out on Mr Kyagulanyi and like-minded politicians.
The incident happened this week.
Fortunately, this latest gagging of the media has attracted the attention of the international community.
Already, the United Nations, the United States and member-states of the European Union, among others, have issued statements condemning this blatant abuse of power by Museveni.
A joint statement by the EU Delegation and Heads of Missions of EU countries and other countries like the US, Japan, Republic of Korea reads thus;
“We are deeply concerned with a series of recent incidents restricting the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Uganda.
“Of particular concern to us is the Uganda Communications Commission’s decision to suspend senior staff members of 13 radio and television stations on allegations of breaching minimum broadcasting standards.”
In the statement, the envoys also express concern about the excessive use of force by Ugandan police and security services against peaceful protesters and political opposition.
“We note that Uganda’s Constitution, as well as regional and international standards, guarantees both freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of assembly.”
In an attempt to explain this blatant attack on media freedoms, UCC head of legal and compliance, Abudu Sallam Waiswa, shamelessly said that the sanctioned media houses were “only focusing on Mr Kyagulanyi” as he was being brutalised by the so-called security forces.
He also said that the media houses – which are all privately owned – were only focusing on political issues in the country, hence unbalanced!
Lest we forget, just a couple of months back, Museveni, through UCC, issued a directive to all broadcasters to air live, what was meant to be his press conference but turned out to be a Museveni monologue, in which he rambled on for hours.
This monologue, in which Ugandans picked nothing, only cost the television stations tens of millions of shillings in prime-time advertising revenue.
The good news with this is, Ugandans can no longer be hoodwinked by such arrogant statements by these Museveni stooges, and are openly resisting, and in big numbers.
As I conclude, I want to say that the revolution will only be energised by the resilience of political actors and the entire population, especially the youth, to see the back of Museveni and his arrogant bunch of Bahima cronies, irrespective of their brutal acts.