Uganda lifts ban on newspaper, radio stations after crackdown

Reuters News
Posted: May 30, 2013 9:46 AM

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda's government lifted a ban on a newspaper and two radio stations on Thursday that it shut down for reports regarding ageing President Yoweri Museveni's succession, and said they had agreed to a range of restrictions.

Police shut two newspapers and two radio stations on May 20 after they reported on a alleged plot to assassinate those opposed to Museveni's purported plan to hand power to his son.

Allegations of such a plot were first mentioned by General David Sejusa, the head of internal security, in a private letter that was leaked to the Daily Monitor, Uganda's biggest-circulating independent daily.

Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek said that senior managers at Kenya's Nation Media Group (NMG), which owns the Daily Monitor and the two radio stations, had met senior government officials including Museveni.

Onek said NMG now "highly regretted" the coverage and had agreed "not to publish or air stories that can generate tension...cause insecurity or disturb law and order."

NMG officials could not be reached for comment.

"The police have called off the cordon of the Monitor premises so that they can resume their normal business as police continue with the search," the minister told reporters at a news conference in Kampala.

Police had declared the newspaper and radio station offices crime scenes, saying they wanted to search for documents.

Officials were due to meet managers at the second closed newspaper, Red Pepper, which would be allowed to re-open if it agreed to similar conditions, Onek said.

Red Pepper said on Thursday on its website that it had also re-opened.

Peter Mwesige, a Ugandan editor and executive director of African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), questioned how the new restrictions would be implemented, and by whom.

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"In practical terms, who will determine this? We're likely to see less and less critical coverage and more and more of self-censorship," he said.

Speculation is growing that Museveni, in office since 1986 and one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, is lining up his son to succeed him at the end of his term in 2016, a move that was likely to test the loyalties of Uganda's ruling elite.

In a major shake-up of the army last week, Museveni removed his long-serving military chief, Aronda Nyakairima, who had been mentioned in Sejusa's letter as one of the people targeted for assassination.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)