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Uganda 19 August 2005

Radio KFM back on the air but one of its journalists to be tried for sedition

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the Broadcasting Council’s decision yesterday to allow radio KFM back on the air but voiced concern about the intention to try KFM presenter Andrew Mwenda for sedition and about the dismissal of Mwenda’s producer, Angelo Izama.

"It is reassuring to see the talks begun a week ago between KFM and the Broadcasting Council have yielded results," the press freedom organisation said. "It is vital that relations between the authorities and the media should be based on dialogue and moderation in this period of tension following Sudanese Vice-President John Garang’s death in the crash of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s helicopter."

Reporters Without Borders added: "We are however concerned about the prosecution of Mwenda. It would cause great harm if the Ugandan courts were to use the sedition charge to hand down an excessively severe sentence. We also think it is not the Broadcasting Council’s role to say that a producer should be dismissed."

Among the programmes broadcast when KFM went back on the air yesterday was the ’Andrew Mwenda Live’ discussion programme. It was the 10 August edition of this programme that led to the suspension of the station’s licence.

The payment of 4.95 million shillings (about 2,200 euros) in damages and the dismissal of the producer of ’Andrew Mwenda Live’ were the council’s conditions for allowing the station back on the air.

Mwenda, who was arrested on 12 August and freed on bail on 15 August, faces a five-year prison sentence when he is tried on the sedition charge on 29 August. During his 10 August programme, Mwenda accused the Ugandan government of putting Garang in a poor-quality helicopter and described President Museveni as a coward and a failure.

That same day, President Museveni had threatened to close down news media that continue to refer to terrorism and sabotage as the possible causes of Garang’s death.

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