Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Media Muzzling in Uganda--Prelude to Darkness

The Ugandan government is about perfecting all plans to muzzle the media in that country as a preparation for Mr Muzeveni's smooth re-election next year. A new law is being passed to that effect. Called the Press and Journalists Amendment Bill 2010, the law empowers the Media Council (appointees of Museveni) to promptly shut down a media house if it is deemed to have published any content that endangers national stability, security and unity. All media houses will also be required to apply for licences to be renewed annually. This is pretty much like the Kenyan Amended Communication Act which empowers the Minister of Internal Security to raid media houses and seize and confiscate whatever is found incriminating before, during or after publication or broadcasting. (I wrote about this on this blog last year. Click here)

These new Ugandan and Kenyan laws seem to be photocopies of the decrees issued during the infamous military regimes in Nigeria. An example WAS Decree 4 (promulgated by General Buhari) which would punish any journalist who published anything capable of bringing a public official into disrepute even if what was published was true. Another WAS Decree 29 (by General Babangida) which prescribed death for anyone who spoke or wrote anything capable of disrupting the society. I must also add Decree 48 (by Babangida also) which proscribed 17 publications owned by five anti-military newspaper organisations. Others were Decree 23 which proscribed The Reporter, and Decree 35 which conferred on the president the power to confiscate or ban any publication (like Kenya’s new law), and Decree 43 which (like the new Ugandan law) set up regulations for registration of newspapers. In Nigeria, we regard these laws as the painful sores of our past sufferings. They have been repealed long ago. They, in fact, sound so ancient and retrogressive we sometimes wonder if they truly existed. But they did. We have locked them up in the Pain Section of our mental National Archives and won't remember them again. They are the past.

Why are Museveni and Kibaki driving their countries backwards into darkness? Backwards towards the pain and misery that Nigeria left ten years ago? Ugandan media have been pliant for many years. Now that they are coming up, Yoweri is uncomfortable. On September 10, 2009, he shut down CBS FM and has refused to open it. Now he's reaching out for the rest of the independent media. Ugandan journalists and East African Journalists Association (EAJA) must rise up against this law! If they need help, they could talk to Nigerian former guerrilla journalists at The News, Tell, Insider Weekly, and The The Guardian. Twenty-four years as president and yet Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is not tired of ruling Uganda. This act is certainly a prelude to darkness.

No comments: