Court Acquits Radio Panelists

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Six radio panelists in Fort Portal have been acquitted of charges of inciting violence and defamation.

Delivering his ruling this morning to a fully packed court, Alex Mushabe, the Fort Portal Grade One Magistrate said state prosecution failed to prove that the six panelists uttered defamatory statements on air against the Fort Portal Municipality MP Steven Kaliba, Kabarole NRM Chairperson Godfrey Nyakahuma and Rev. Richard Baguma.

Mushabe said that prosecution failed to produce the audio recordings in court implicating the panelists.

On the count of inciting violence, Mushabe also said that prosecution did not bring to court any listener who could have responded to the calls of the panelists and assaulted any of the complainants.

In 2008, the panelists Gerald Kankya, Steven Rwagweri, Prosper Busingye, Francis Gonza, Dan Rubombora and Joram Bitamanya were charged with six counts of inciting violence and uttering defamatory statements against Kaliba, Nyakahuma and Baguma.

While appearing on two talk-shows; Tooro Twerwaneho (Tooro lets fight for ourselves) and Ensonga ha Nsonga (Issues on issues) that were being aired on Life F.M radio, the panelists accused Kaliba, Nyakahuma and Baguma for masterminding the burning of Life Fm's transmitter at Oruha Hill, Kyenjojo district.

Earlier on before the ruling was read, the state prosecutor Noah Akunya requested the magistrate to adjourn the ruling because one of the key state witnesses in the case, Martin Abilu the former Western Regional Police Commander did not testify in court.

However his request was turned down by Mushabe who said that for two years the prosecution was supposed to bring Abilu to court but they failed.

Dan Rubombora says that the ruling is proof that the charges were fabricated by the state with aim of gagging free speech.

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