Government jams Monitor radio, site
From MONITOR REPORTER KAMPALA
The government has jammed the signal of 93.3 KFM, a sister media outlet of Daily/Sunday Monitor, for independently relaying results from Thursday's elections.
Monitor Publications Ltd (MPL), owners of KFM and publishers of Daily/Sunday Monitor, independently tallied results at their Namuwongo offices and relayed them on KFM and the paper's website.
The results showed a much closer race between President Museveni and key challenger Kizza Besigye of FDC compared to those being released by the Electoral Commission. The government consequently blocked the website (http://www.monitor.co.ug) and jammed the KFM signal.
While announcing provisional results on Saturday morning, EC Chairman Badru Kiggundu said: "I have heard some centres claiming to release results. I would like those centres to refrain because they are not the legal institution mandated to do that."
He did not give reasons for his order and neither did he say which centres he was referring to. But MPL Managing Director Conrad Nkutu said Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told him on Friday that the security agencies had indeed jammed KFM and blocked the website but that all would be fine quickly. "He promised yesterday [Saturday] that the blocking and jamming would be reversed but only the website is unblocked," Mr Nkutu said.
He said the KFM engineers told him that the signal of Radio Uganda (now UBC-Radio) was being overmodulated and beamed into the KFM studio-to-transmitter link in order to weaken and jam the KFM signal. "Many listeners have reported that for the past two days when they tune to KFM they either hear Radio Uganda or Radio Sapientia or static noise or KFM's signal but heavily interfered with by static," Nkutu said.
He added: "We appreciate that government was uncomfortable with our independent tallying of results but it is not prohibited by the laws. It was legal. We find it unfortunate that security agencies have resorted to illegally jamming our radio's signal and blocking our website. We also find it strange that security agencies can make repeated promises to the minister of Internal Affairs to unjam the radio signal and yet a day later it still has not been done."
Nkutu said he had last spoken to Dr Rugunda at 5 p.m. yesterday and he had promised all would be fine immediately but by the time we went to press last night the station was still jammed.
"This action by government, if not corrected, will make us seek legal redress because we are losing revenue," the MD said. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has protested the government's actions. "We are deeply troubled that [Daily] Monitor's website and KFM are inaccessible during this important time," said Ms Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. "Ugandan authorities must ensure that independent media are able to report on the election results without interference, censorship, or reprisals."
Information Minister James Buturo declined to comment on allegations that KFM's frequency was jammed. "It would not surprise me," he told CPJ. "The radio station has been doing what it is not supposed to do by law. The work of announcing results is the work of the Electoral Commission." He added that reporting independent results before they are officially confirmed "could lead to public disorder".
Buturo also denied that the Daily Monitor website was blocked by the government. "They're just trying to save face [after being] at the forefront of campaigning for the opposition.""