The Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) Uganda, a journalists’ human rights body has asked government to immediately open Unity FM, closed over the violence in Lira over the weekend.
There was violence in Arua caused by the killing of a 11 year old Dickens Okello,a pupil of Alito Primary School by two Asian national prompting locals to get up in arms over the manner police handled the murder.
Security led by the army and police later raided Unity FM, shutting it down and arrested some of the radio staff.
However, according to HRNJ Executive Director, Robert Ssempala, government ought to have opened the radio station to allow it resume broadcasting.
“The radio station should be re-opened to allow for negotiations in a bid to build peace and flourishing business relationship with the locals. We hope that this matter is handled cautiously to avoid inflaming the peace in the area,” Ssempala said.
On Saturday, a number of stuff at the Lira based Unity FM were arrested and these included Charles Odongo -technical director, Keneth Opio-Assistant station manager, Felix Ogwang-presenter, Moses Alwala-news reporter, Micheal Ogwal-news anchor, Aron Ebwola-producer and Okello Emmanuel Zumulamai and Junior Engola both clients who had brought business announcements to the radio.
The journalists body has appealed to government to ensure the Unity FM staff are released because their detention without being tried in competent courts of law is illegal.
“The locking up of the two staff members inside the station was an illegal detention which must be challenged in court,”Ssempala added.
The comments by the journalists’ rights body come at a time when government accused the radio of fanning violence in Lira.
The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Hon. Mario Obiga Kania said the radio station broadcast what he called ‘irresponsible messages’ that were intended to incite the public against the Indian community and security forces.
“These [radio messages] charged the community into violence against the Indian community and the incident left some police officers and civilians injured. They are currently receiving treatment from Lira Regional Referral Hospital while others were airlifted to Mulago National Referral Hospital,” he said.