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Uganda27 June 2003

Police close radio station for reporting rebel attacks

Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to permit the reopening of a Catholic church radio station in the northeastern town of Soroti which was forcibly closed by police on 23 June on the grounds that it broadcast "sensationalist" news about attacks by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in defiance of a ban.

"The radio station was just doing its job of informing the public," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The activities of the news media cannot be the object of arbitrary restrictions for political reasons or else they will just be turned into propaganda tools," Ménard added.

The radio station, Radio Kyoga Veritas FM, is housed within the compound of the Soroti Catholic Diocese Integrated Development Organization (SCDIO), which was overrun at around 3 p.m. on 23 June by police led by district police commander Patrick Awai. Claiming they were carrying out a security search, the police confiscated the station’s news scripts and 25 tapes of testimonies by people affected by the fighting in the region between rebels and government forces, recently broadcast by the station.

The police prevented anyone from entering or leaving for several hours and did not allow the radio personnel, including Bishop Erasmus Wandera, to leave until 6 p.m.

Information minister Nsaba Buturo told parliament yesterday the radio station was closed for broadcasting sensationalist news about the rebels that were "alarming" the population. There is still no indication when the station will be allowed to reopen, despite calls by several parliamentarians for an end to its forced closure.

A government official, Christine Amongin, banned on 17 June radio stations in Soroti from broadcasting any news about LRA rebel activity.

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