Interview: UCC suspends Mbarara radio host Kasiriivu over age limit  

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Kasirivu in studio

James Kasiriivu, a current affairs show host on Mbarara’s Endigyito FM has been suspended on the orders of Uganda Communications Commission [UCC] boss, Eng Godfrey Mutabazi.

The directive is contained in a letter dated November 21, 2017 claiming UCC had received several complaints from listeners of “World Express” programme which Kasiriivu “The Great” hosts.

Mutabazi directed the radio to submit all recordings of the said programme for the month of November.

Mutabazi further ordered that the producer and host of the programme be suspended immediately as UCC investigates the matter.

Kasiriivu speaks out

Kasiriivu was summoned a fortnight ago by management and his programme banned on allegations that he supports the #Togikwatako campaign protesting the removal of the age limit clause from the constitution.

Kasiriivu was summoned by UCC together with Endigyito radio director Hon Byamukama Nulu and the radio station manager on Friday 1st December 2017.

He is accused of inciting the public. His programme was among the most listened-to programmes in western and central regions.

“I just pity all practicing journalists and those hoping to join the media in the future,” Kasiriivu told edge.ug in an interview.

With 19 years’ experience in media, Kasiriivu decried the kind of environment the media in Uganda is made to operate.

“I think I have persisted despite all threats to media freedom in Uganda and I believe I have all reasons to make you understand why I would never advise any of my kids to take up journalism as a career,” the host said.

Kasiriivu who started his radio career in 1998, noted that ever since the age limit bill came to the scene, media has seen black days with individuals being attacked.

“We have forced ourselves into self-censorship to avoid dirty politics of our mother nation but still, there are those who feel that the way we present our shows in one way or the other has made their Togikwatako game more difficult to sell in public,” he explained.

In 1999, his “World Express” programme was also suspended after airing Daily Monitor’s story claiming Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] rebels had shot down a UPDF helicopter in northern Uganda.

“Though I only carried the topic in a press review segment during my show, I was arrested on orders of then Kasese RDC Zedekia Karokora.”

He added: “I was given over 400 strokes at Kasese Central Police by both the army and police officers before I was released with no charge after three days.”

In 2001, the programme was briefly stopped claiming it was leaning on the opposition side in the way it was being moderated.

At that time, Rtd Col Dr Kiiza Besigye had engaged President Museveni’s NRM in a very bitter presidential contest for the first in Uganda’s history then.

In 2006 when Besigye was taking on Museveni again, Kasiriivu was arrested on orders of Gen. Benon Biraaro claiming he was a sympathiser of The Allied Democratic Forces [ADF] rebels hiding behind journalism.

Uganda was preparing to host the Common wealth Heads of Government meeting and so, Government wouldn’t like hearing any negative news item on air, or giving the opposition a platform to talk about anything, he explained.

“The military men who arrested me, treated me in any inhumane way a human wouldn’t ever wish to go through. They then drove me to Kasese airfield where I was forced out.”