The closure of the Lira based Unity FM has attracted sharped condemnation from residents and human rights activists. The privately owned station, which broadcasts on 97.7FM was shut down by the Army and police led by the Lira District Police Commander, Joel Tubanone on Saturday.
Tubanone accused the radio of inciting violence and promoting hate speech against foreign nationals. Trouble for the station started after residents took to the streets to protest the death of 11-year-old Dickens Okello, a pupil of Alito P.7 School in Kole District at the hands of Vayes Frivey and Madmay Gaga, both Indian nationals.
The Indians reportedly attacked the minor on his way from school with his brother. The deceased's brother, says Okello was trapped by barbed wires, which strangled him to death while fleeing from the Asian businessmen who were chasing after them in a white double cabin pickup with tinted glasses prompting residents to raise up in protest.
Unity Fm reported about the demonstration, which turned violent. Security forces later stormed the station and switched it off.
The closure of the station hasn't gone down well with residents and human rights activists, saying it is an attempt to gag media houses and intimidate activists.
Isa Otto Amiza, the former Oyam South Member of Parliament and local activist in Lira town said the closure is illegal.
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Otto wants the officers who raided the station investigated and punished for their high handedness. Francis Ogema Awany, the Coordinator of Lango United Journalists Association has called for the unconditional reopening of Radio Unity and release of arrested staff.
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Those locked up include Felix Ogwang, Emmy Okello, Charles Odongo, one of the Directors, Sam Okello Engola, a client. They have since been charged with incitement of violence.
Jimmy Ohuru Luis Onapa, the Proprietor of Unity FM denies any wrong doing. He instead blames police for inciting violence by attending Okello's funeral against the wish of the community.
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The Lira DPC, Tubanone, North Kyoga Region Police Commander, Nkulegi and RDC, Milton Odongo who sanctioned the closure of the station have remained silent on the matter. Nkulegi declined to comment on the matter, saying it was still under investigations.
A section of Unity FM listeners have launched a campaign dubbed 'Free Radio Unity' to push for the reopening of the closed Station. The listeners are circulating messages on social media calling condemning the closure of the station.
Respect for rule of law,” reads one of the messages. “Police stop violating human rights and respect for freedom of speech,” reads another.