Coverage of Pop Star’s Arrest Sparks Ugandan Media Crackdown

(Bloomberg) -- Uganda’s media regulator ordered the suspension of journalists at 13 local TV and radio stations accused of airing sensationalized programming -- just days after the widely covered arrest of a pop star who plans to challenge President Yoweri Museveni.

The Uganda Communications Commission called for the suspension of the producers and heads of programming and news from outlets including Nation Media Group’s NTV, NBS TV and Capital FM in a statement Wednesday. UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa said by phone that coverage of the firebrand politician’s arrest was among the authorities’ reasons. It didn’t specify how long the move should last.

Coverage of Pop Star’s Arrest Sparks Ugandan Media Crackdown

The Uganda Journalists Association condemned the UCC’s demands as an affront to media freedom.

Robert Kyagulanyi, who goes by the stage name Bobi Wine and plans to run against Museveni in 2021 elections, was arrested April 29 in the capital, Kampala, after an argument with police. He was remanded on charges of leading an illegal protest in July against a new Ugandan tax on social media. On Thursday, he was granted bail after a hearing conducted via video-link from prison rather than attending a public courthouse.

A famous Afrobeats musician before his election as a lawmaker in 2017, 37-year-old Kyagulanyi has emerged as the main political threat to Museveni, who’s ruled the East African nation for three decades. He was charged with treason last year after his supporters allegedly threw stones at a convoy carrying Museveni in northwestern Uganda.

Names, Recordings

The UCC accused the media of coverage that’s “unbalanced, sensational” and gives “undue prominence to specific individuals.” It gave the broadcasters three days to present the names of the senior journalists and submit recordings of all live programs and news they aired on April 29.

Museveni, 74, seized power in 1986 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Uganda’s Supreme Court last month approved parliament’s abolition of an age limit of 75 for presidential candidates, clearing the way for him to seek re-election.

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