Uganda Free David Cecil Now | Censorship Prevails through Arrest of British Producer

English: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of U...
English: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda at the White House, 10 June 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Melanie Nathan, September 14, 2012.

While we call for the release of David Cecil, Radio one in Uganda is refusing to speak on the  air about the arrest of  the Ugandan based British producer of the play, “The River and the Mountain.”  And one will probably find the Ugandan media quiet on the subject.  Sources have informed me that all media outlets now fear exercising their right to freely speak and address this arrest, because such may be construed as supporting LGBTI rights or ” promoting homosexuality.”  But that is not what this arrest is ultimately about. This is about censoring Ugandans – it about freedom of expression through art, and the clamping down on the freedom to criticize the Ugandan government through  the arts.

David Cecil,  the British producer of the play is in a Ugandan jail, has been refused bail, and is pending trial on charges that he had staged a play performed without official authorization.  Cecil appeared in court Thursday charged with ‘‘disobeying lawful orders’’ from the Uganda Media Council, which says he staged ‘‘The River and the Mountain’’ in Uganda’s capital last month despite orders to the contrary.

While this is Uganda’s first theatrical production to feature a gay protagonist, the play does not depict a gay rights-based message but rather embeds a gay (Kuchu) hero within a wider drama about corruption, religion and politics. Cecil told me in a recent interview that the script went through an approval process by the National Theatre of Uganda and that at one point he thought it had been approved.

But that may not be what this arrest is all about.  Indeed the arrest may be more about the Ugandan Government’s well documented mission, to silence all opposition about the general ills of the country, which the play tackles,  including corruption, religion and politics.

The use of a gay character probably seems the overt spark of disapproval, but in reality all Ugandans, whether gay or straight, whether for LGBTI rights or not, should be up in arms about this overt move to silence art and freedom of expression. This is an attack on freedom of expression, on democracy and on art!

David Cecil should be freed immediately and all Ugandans ought to stand up to this form of oppression by the dictator Government.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been at the helm in Uganda for over 25 years. He has been accused of silencing political opposition through arrests and torture. During his term  he has seen to the abolition of presidential term limits (before the 2006 elections) and the harassment of democratic opposition, have attracted concern locally and around the world.

This is yet another example of oppression  by his regime and any blame on LGBTI Uganda is misplaced. David Cecil is a straight man. All the players in the play are heterosexual. The play merely refers to one gay character and if that is the excuse the Ugandans are using to ban the play, then once again they are scape-goating gays and lesbians from the larger ills of their society.

In this instance ALL Ugandans should stand together for freedom of speech through art and the expression of democracy in theater.  When government closes down theater, and arrests artists,  the entire society is oppressed.



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