The war in the north continued to be a taboo subject and several news media were censored for broaching it. Radio stations were particularly at risk in 2003.
As is the case every year, The Monitor, Uganda’s only independent daily, paid a price for its opposition to the government. President Yoweri Museveni attacked it in an address to parliamentarians on 8 September 2003, accusing it of treason and support for the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Monitor replied that it advocated a peaceful solution to the war in the north.
The war waged by the LRA continued to be viewed as a highly sensitive subject by the government. The news media were on several occasions ordered not to publish any information about rebel activities.
Information minister James Nsaba Buturo announced at the end of August that registration of radio stations was suspended until "order is re-established on the air waves" and until the authorities worked out an equitable distribution of stations throughout the country. More than 100 stations are registered but many do not respect the specifications set by the authorities and some operate without permission.
A journalist imprisoned
Vincent Matovu, the editor of Mazima, a local, Luganda-language weekly, was released on bail from Luzira prison near Kampala in February 2003. He had been arrested in November 2002 on a charge of sedition for reporting in two articles in October and November 2002 that LRA rebels killed thousands of government troops and seized control of the Pader and Kapchorwa districts in the north and east of the country.
A journalist detained
Karim Ziwa of radio Power FM was arrested at the Kampala international conference centre on 31 March 2003 while covering a major meeting of the ruling party. The official reason was possession of a tape-recorder in a restricted area, which is viewed as a criminal offence. Badly beaten during detention, he was released the next morning but was ordered to report every Tuesday to the central police station.
A journalist physically attacked
Hadija Nakitende, a reporter for CBS radio and vice-president of the Association of Ugandan Journalists, was attacked in a Kampala hotel on 7 December while she was covering a meeting of the Young Ugandan Democrats (YUD), the youth wing of the opposition Democratic Party (DP). About 15 suspected members of the ruling party burst in, beat Nakitende and other people present, and smashed a camera belonging to the commercial TV channel WBS.
Harassment and obstruction
Information minister Basoga Nsadhu - Buturo’s predecessor in the post - announced on 2 January 2003 that live broadcasts from public places, known in Uganda as "ebimeeza," were henceforth banned on the grounds that the licences issued to radio stations only allowed them to broadcast from studios. Ebimeeza began in around 2000 when some radio stations decided to organise round tables in public places and broadcast the debates live. Also called "people’s parliaments," they were very popular, giving people a chance to express themselves on the air on a wide range of subjects, including the actions of the government. The ban affected many radio stations, including Radio One, Central Broadcasting Service and Radio Simba. The National Broadcasting Association announced its intention a few days later to sue the information minister and by 24 January, more than 6,000 people had signed a petition opposing the ban.
Journalists were warned at the start of March that anyone publishing or broadcasting military secrets - which is considered a criminal offence - would be tried by court martial.
Radio Kyoga Veritas FM, a Catholic radio station based in the east-central town of Soroti, was closed by police on 23 June for carrying reports about attacks by LRA rebels in the region. The authorities accused the radio station of alarming the public. The government had on 17 June banned Soroti radio stations from broadcasting news about rebel activities. The new information minister, Nsaba Buturo, allowed Radio Kyoga Veritas FM to resume broadcasting on 30 August but said it should not carry any reports on the regional security situation without getting permission from the Soroti district commissioner first.
The Ugandan bar association issued a directive on 22 August banning lawyers from saying anything to the print or broadcast media without its express authorisation.
The broadcasting council decided on 21 October to close Kampala-based radio Super FM indefinitely for providing live commentary of British football league matches without acquiring retransmission rights. The decision was the result of a complaint by another Ugandan radio station, Radio One, which had paid for the exclusive right to carry these games. The information minister rescinded the closure the next day, taking that position that, while the dispute needed to be resolved, it was not grounds for closing Super FM.
The attorney general announced on 10 November that the news media were no longer authorised to publish the declarations of assets and liabilities made by the country’s political leaders. He made the announcement a few days after two leading dailies published details of the assets of several ministers and presidential advisers which they got from the inspector general of government, with whom leading officials have to file their declarations. This had prompted a formal protest by the vice-president, who said newspapers should not be allowed to publish this information.