United States Agency for Global Media

A suspiciously-timed power outage fails to keep viewers from watching a highly-anticipated episode of Straight Talk Africa

When VOA English viewers tuned into Straight Talk Africa with host Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, September 12 for a lively discussion between Ugandan lawmaker Bobi Wine and Ugandan Ambassador Mull Sebujja Katende, they were interrupted by power outages. Wine, a musician-turned-lawmaker whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, accused Ugandan security forces of beating him in retaliation for his alleged involvement in a stoning of President Yoweri Museveni’s motorcade. The Ugandan government has denied physically harassing and torturing Wine.

As power outages spread across Uganda, many viewers were outraged over the suspiciously-timed fallout, and the social media hashtag #VOABobiWine began trending.

During the program, Wine confronted the Ambassador asking, “Why [are] so many Ugandans are being tortured, are wrongfully arrested and indeed, killed?” Ambassador Katende responded by reinforcing the government’s stance on torture noting that “Uganda remains committed to the tenants of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.”

Despite the power outage, the show’s live stream audience was 54 times larger than its average Facebook Live. The posted show had more than 115,000 video views on Facebook in less than 24 hours, more than triple its daily average. Facebook engagement reached 10 times the daily average.

Excerpts were used in VOA news programming in English, French and Swahili. Additional media organizations throughout Africa covered the suspicious correlation between the VOA program and the power outage.

Shortly after Straight Talk Africa ended, power was restored.

VOA’s English to Africa Service provides multimedia news and information covering all 54 countries in Africa. The service reaches more than 25 million people on the radio, television, web, and social media. VOA programs engage audiences with information about politics, science, technology, health, business, the arts, as well as programming on sports, music and entertainment.