In reaction to the letter wrote by Raymond Otika in the weekly Uganda observer entitled:’ Sedition comes with oppression’, I would like to say that sedition charges did not start with president museveni as he learnt that from one of his predecessors, Dr. Milton Obote. Journalists and the media were some of the biggest casualties of the government’s sensitivity to criticism during Obote and now Museveni. Pro-baganda newspapers like the economy had a breather after the fall of Amin but things started getting tougher afterwards. Obote also got tougher on foreign journalists who had had freedom under Lule and Binaisa. Many newspapers like the weekly topic were closed down by government officials under obote 2. Anthony Sekweyama, the editor of the main Luganda newspaper, Mumansi, and two other employees of the paper were arrested in March and held for three weeks on sedition charges. They were released in mid-April, but the paper — which was the voice of the opposition, Democratic Party — did not reappear until the middle of May. Even the Chief Editor of the new Sunday edition of the government Uganda Times was detained after only editing two issues. The Obote government was apparently annoyed by an article criticising the US boycott of Libyan oil. Obote had turned his previous socialist policies on their head and had been hard at work courting Western investors. No doubt he did not wish them annoyed by a government paper. Surprisingly, Museveni’s paper: Resistance News of the NRM was left on the streets for a while-a point which strengthenes the argument of those who say that Obote always did undermine the strengths of Museveni from day one.
Museveni’s idea of the media centre headed by Robert Kabushenga did not come from the moon. Obote was the man who first introduced Newspaper and Publications Act to lay down conditions for the starting of a newspaper or magazine in Uganda. Museveni’s media centre is an equivalent of Obote’s Press Accreditation Committee (PAC) which had representatives from the Ministries of Information, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs. Ugandan journalists wishing to send material to foreign sources had to be approved by the same body.
In addition,the throwing away of foreign journalists from Uganda did not start with Museveni as some people think. Four Western journalists who included: Christabel King, Nick Worrall, June Dechter and Bob Dietz, had their accreditation withdrawn before the December 1980 elections which brought Obote to power, mainly because they were considered unsympathetic to Obote. Then four other journalists resident in Kampala also had their press credentials withdrawn and these were: Cameron Morton (September 1981), Mark Lee (December 1981), Tom Lansner (November 1981) and Trent O’Keefe (January 1982). Visiting correspondents, including representatives of the Daily Telegraph and British Independent Television News, were also thrown out of Uganda. The Minister of Information at that time, Dr David Anyoti, said that only qualified and bona fide journalists were permitted to work in the country. He condemned freelance journalists as bent on ‘sensational and subjective journalism’ and condemned the foreign news media for using ‘second-rate yellow journalists’. Cameron Morton, for example, was put under house arrest and expelled immediately after reporting army massacres in the West Nile and Trent O’Keefe had his accreditation withdrawn a few days after a BBC report of the murder of five churchgoers by Ugandan troops during a Sunday service in Katiti village in Luwero district. Actually, any body telling you that the killing of Ugandans like bees in Luwero started with NRM is just kicking himself in the teeth. Probably president Museveni can now be called a student of Obote politics in Uganda.
Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba