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Radio station closed after airing programme on Garang death

[Kenya] John Garang (June 1945 - July 2005) - Naivasha, Kenya.
The late John Garang in 2003 during Sudanese peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya. (IRIN)

The Ugandan Broadcasting Council has shut down a popular radio station, K-FM, following the airing on Wednesday evening of a talk show that discussed the death of Sudanese First Vice President John Garang.

"The Broadcasting Council has discovered that the programme which was aired between 7.00pm and 8.00pm [1600-1700 GMT] offends the minimum standards enshrined in the electronic media act," the Council said in a letter to the station.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had on Wednesday afternoon threatened to shut down newspapers engaged in "speculation" over Garang's death on 30 July, in a Uganda government-owned helicopter that crashed near the Uganda-Sudan border.

"I will no longer tolerate a newspaper which is like a vulture. Any newspaper that plays around with regional security, I will not tolerate it - I will close it," he said.

Speaking at a memorial ceremony in Kampala for Garang and seven Ugandan crewmembers who also perished in the crash, Museveni said The Daily Monitor, The Weekly Observer and a tabloid, The Red Pepper "must stop or we shall stop them".

K-FM chief executive, Conrad Nkutu, said media council officials had gone to their studios on Thursday in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and ordered them to stop broadcasting, an action he said was "unexplained, unreasonable and illegal".

However, information minister James Nsaba Buturo told IRIN: "It is the Media Council doing its work and if they are doing it under the law and with good reasons, as government we have no problem."

The programme, "Andrew Mwenda Live", featured a discussion of the president's threats, as well as speculation about the cause of the crash.

K-FM is a subsidiary of Monitor Publications, which also owns The Daily Monitor, which was briefly shut down in 2002 for publishing a story about an army helicopter being shot down by rebels in the country's north, a claim the army denied.

Garang, who had led the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army through 21 years of civil war against the Sudanese government, had assumed office on 9 July, after signing a peace agreement with the government in January.

He died en-route to southern Sudan from Uganda, following a meeting with Museveni. Garang, who was buried in the southern town of Juba on 6 August, has been replaced as vice president by Salva Kiir Mayardit. An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.

Uganda's press is "partly free", according to a 2005 survey by the independent Washington DC-based think tank, Freedom House.

The survey said: "Laws enacted ostensibly in the name of national security, together with the harassment of journalists who cover the country’s civil war, produce much self-censorship among Ugandan media."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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