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» 02.09.2003 - Ugandan Minister reopens Catholic radio

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Society | Media

Ugandan authorities to shut down 50 broadcasters

afrol News, 13 January - Authorities have begun shutting down dozens of independent Ugandan broadcasters for non-payment of operating permits. Up to 50 broadcasters, mostly small non-commercial radio stations, could be targeted because they cannot afford the annual euro 1200 fee.

Ugandan media regulatory authorities have already started action against privately-owned media outlets that have not paid for their operating permits. Officials are targeting about 50 broadcasters throughout the country.

Four Kampala-based radio stations and one television station were forced to stop broadcasting on Thursday and the state broadcasting council confirms that action against more broadcasters will be taken.

The Broadcasting Council, which regulates television and radio stations in the country, on Thursday started its nationwide action by seizing the transmitters of 'Kampala African Radio', 'Mama FM', 'Kampala FM' and 'Top Radio'. 'Top TV' television station's transmitter was also confiscated.

Broadcasting Council spokesman Dennis Lukaaya said the media outlets had not paid their operating permits. He estimated that almost half of the approximate 100 radio stations and three television stations operating in the country were in the same situation.

Private radio stations are expected to pay an annual state tax of 3 million shillings (approximately 1,200 euros). Some of the broadcasters simply do not have the required funds.

'Mama FM' director Margaret Sentamu told a local daily newspaper that she thought the authorities should make a distinction between commercial radio stations, which broadcast advertisements, and community radio stations, which have no resources of their own. "It is unfair that the Broadcasting Council should impose the same tax on all media," she said.

The authorities however announced that over the next few days, they will continue to close media outlets in the country's interior that have not paid for operating permits.

The Council's action against non-paying media today was termed inflexible by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). "Most of the media outlets involved are not commercial stations and do not have the means to pay the tax," the group noted.

However, RSF said it was only "reasonable for a government to ask private media to pay for a permit, but this does not justify the wave of closures that has gotten underway." The group advised Ugandan authorities to "show more flexibility and find a compromise solution that will not bring about the demise of half of the country's private radio stations."

- The Ugandan people will suffer the consequences of this move by being deprived of many of their sources for news, the media watchdogs noted.

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