UGANDAN media experts are sounding the alarm over what they are calling state orchestrated self sponsorship in Radio Stations countrywide, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
Their alert comes after opposition party leaderÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Kizza Besigye, of theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Forum for Democratic Change, was twice turned away from scheduled talk show programmes by two different radio stations citing orders from above.
Senior employees at Luo FM in Pader District on Saturday cancelled Besigyes scheduled 8-10pm talk show on this basis.
MP Odonga Otto (FDC; Aruu) who confirmed the cancellation explained that they booked the two-hour slot at the equivalent of US$1,200Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â a fortnight ago.
But when we turned up to clear the bill prior to the planned show, the radio managers declined to receive the cash.
They said they had received orders from above not to host any opposition politician on the radio station and don't want their station closed like the Central Broadcasting Station, he said.
This comes after an incidentÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â in November last year, whenÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Dr. Besigye was blocked from featuring on Nenah FM in Karamoja.
The developments come as a charged campaign ahead of the 2011 elections began countrywide.
Dr George Lugalambi, the Head Mass Communications department at Makerere University, argues that the crackdown onÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â CBSÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â has a knock-on effect on smaller broadcasters who lackÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â clout to fight political pressure.
He said this hadÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â a negative effect on democratic debate and participation in the run-up to next year's voting, he said.
Government took CBS, a largely Buganda kingdom-owned radio, off the airwaves on September 10 last year, accusing it of inciting riots in and around Kampala during which at least some 27 people were shot dead.
Recently,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the government issued tough conditions before re-opening CBS which include a change of location.
The Daily Monitor, a leading newspaper in the region, quoted Pader Resident District Commissioner Santos Okot, accused of freezing Saturdays talk show, who said he was being used as a scapegoat.
"I don't run business for that private radio station and I have no powers to give them instructions. How can I stop a radio station from getting money?" he was quoted as saying.
Francis Babu, the chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, said they have received no instruction from government on how to run their business.
He said: "However, since the closure of CBS, a lot of radio proprietors are sensitive and others have put their own regulations that they do not want to be involved in political talk shows."