Saturday, 10 May 2008

3rd May Should Be the Day to Audit Uganda's Media

A week ago, some journalists in Uganda gathered to mark World Press Freedom Day at the offices of The Independent, a fortnightly publication owned by Andrew Muhangi Mwenda, perhaps one of the most internationally known 'scribe' from this nation of ours [the other I can think about is Charles Onyango Obbo, one of the founders of The Monitor, which is now part of the Nation Media Group].

Much as the gesture was one of solidarity with Mwenda, who had been brutally arrested a few days before by security operatives over certain articles in The Independent, it was at best just posturing and ignorance of what needs to be highlighted as regards media freedom in Uganda.

There is an attempt by Emmanuel Gyezaho, the President of Parliamentary Press Association, to present a case of the challenges of the 'scribes' [Ugandan journalists like to call themselves that] in their work. I believe that there are much wider issues that the media fraternity [another way they like to refer to themselves] needs to self-examine in their role as the fourth estate. One of them is the too-close-for-comfort "buddyness" with the corporate world as observed by this piece [just as an example]. It is so blatant that many times, I ask myself if the media is part of the PR department of these companies. My 2 cents is that this is a kiss of death that definitely comprises the fourth estate..

The other is aptly captured by this editorial by an online publication by students of Makerere University, which I have pasted verbatim below:

[Of course, there are other issues for instance, the persecution of journalists especially in areas out of the capital, the impotence of media associations like UNEPA [of media proprietors and editors], UJA, NIJU [of the journalists], I think they died a long time ago....if not, they are too ineffective that they just disappeared in the shadows of time and became irrelevant.]

Next year, we should mark 3rd May as the time we do an audit of the media against a checklist we should make this year.

World press day excitement, a mourning day in Makerere

World Press Freedom Day is marked annually by the United Nations on 3 May to celebrate the significance of press independence, wider freedom of expression through media and address challenges journalists face.

In Uganda, this day is commemorated with awarding an investigative journalist. This year, the awarding has been pushed to 24th May. An event administered by Mass Communication department of Makerere University and East African Media Institute.

In Makerere, 24th May would be a day to mourn the collapse of “University’s” Newspapers: The Campuser, The Makererean and Masscom Online. Investigations establish poor leadership and inadequate funding as catalysts to fading away of emerging newspapers. Makerere does not appreciate its own. 107 Campus FM is static with unclear signal even in some parts of the University, yet the University spends millions of shillings weekly relaying communications and adverts on external media. Campus FM depends majorly on internet in compiling its bulletins due to lack of recording equipments and the University has not considered it as its mouth piece.

In the digital world, the 85-year-old Makerere lags behind without official newspaper, yet it has quality manpower and brags to have one of the best printeries in the country. Uganda Christian University, Mukono, is proud of a newspaper it funds and manages; The Standard. Going south, University of Botswana flaunts UB Horizon and Rhodes University too, has its.

Bureaucracy and information conceal stagnate information flow. Particular information is almost impossible to get from the University systems even when it has a public relations office. The University officials do not appreciate the purpose and vitality of the public relations office. This University whines of poor publicity and ‘wrong’ things being published about it. But what happens to enticed university officials that want to make news, or, want to be esoteric sources? Some officials don’t want to face the media, or, have particular journalists they only give information.Makerere has capitalised on notice boards that are few and often badly managed. For evening students notice boards are a disservice because most of them are not lit.The university website, the events table is out of date. This is not different to the guild website that was last updated in 2005.

Focusing on the mass communication department, a huge number of her products do not feature in the local and international media. Are students nurtured and inspired?Makerere should be voracious to furnish its public relations office, 107 Campus FM and establish a daily university newspaper.

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