2016 ELECTIONS, THE PITFALLS OF THE MEDIA

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By Emma Were Belinda

Journalism can turn out to be the best or the worst experience during the electoral period in any country. However if one followed these simple principles that have been accepted globally, they are granted a prosperous period in their career during elections. These include;

Truth and Accuracy, journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism.

Independence, Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural.

Fairness and Impartiality, most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context

Humanity, Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

Accountability, a sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical.

In doing so, journalists and traditional media, will put themselves in a position to provide leadership about what constitutes ethical freedom of expression. What is good for journalism is also good for others who use the media and public communications.

In the recently concluded Elections, a lot of unethical drama went down with journalists crossing the line of good practice to activism. Journalists were seen fighting political battles, even physical ones. Ugandans were at some point unable to access objective information because nobody or very few outlets were able to provide it.

There were reports that accused some media houses of being biased. Some of the accusations ranged from paying disproportionate attention to certain candidates which is against the law mandated to give equitable time to all candidates from the findings of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME).

Someone once asked me why I still have faith in the media, but I guess there are a few persons in this country who are still professional and Nationalistic and will keep their tab for the development of our mother Uganda and the good from the few will at one point salvage the situation.

Is the media absconding from their work of setting the agenda and is just playing by the games choreographed by the politicians?  It is wrong to think that the masses are not knowledgeable and only want to see the drama that comes with elections. Many were yearning to listen to policy questions, the economy and many others and not Bad Black.The resurfacing of Aineactually made matters worse. Why didn’t anyone dig deeper for answers, why were we only told what politician X said against Y in that case? Why aren’t our media houses investing more in investigative matters because it’s through this that Ugandans will know the truth. That’s one of the core values of the media as the 4th estate, to keep the government on her tenterhooks.

We are witnessing a situation where the mediadoesn’t enlighten the people about issues but leaves the news consumers more puzzled looking for answers.

We are bombarded with wrong information all the time and the most unfortunate part is that such media information is what certain organizations rely on to make reports about Uganda. I am sure most of them have gone back to change their scripts after the ‘resurrection’ of Christopher AINE. This should be the time to rethink the future of the media and Uganda and salvage our purpose to society because from the look of things, we are doing our country a lot of injustice.

What was attractive to the media during the 2016 General Elections was the drama, the tension and uncertainty of the outcome. And someone says that’s what the public wants!!! I am still wondering if this is based on research and if so, what categories of people were involved in that research. So many silent Ugandans want substance and they will appreciate it but because they are silent doesn’t mean they are happy with what is available. The onus is with the media to work on better services, that’s when you’ll notice the difference.

The December findings show that media houses across all platforms by and large maintained the poor practice of not questioning claims or promises by candidates. Television did particularly poorly, followed by radio. Newspapers performed better, but still fell short of what is desirable.

As of November, President Museveni was provided more front page coverage by newspapers in December. The incumbent received 39.6% of the front page coverage compared to 36.1% for Mr Amama Mbabazi and 20.8% for Dr Kizza Besigye.

Mr Museveni also received more newspaper coverage in general and had more time allocated to him on radio and television. He received 44.2% of newspaper coverage followed by Mr Mbabazi (28%) and Dr Besigye (19.8%). On television, Mr Museveni took 53% of the time against Dr Besigye’s 20.2% and Mr Mbabazi’s 18.9%. On radio, the incumbent had 42% compared to Mr Mbabazi’s 26.6% and Dr Besigye’s 22.8%.

Many organizations including ACME get these figures which could be accurate; the only problem is that they don’t invest as much effort to find out the reasons why this happens. A case in point is that President Museveni was given the first page at times by the newspaper editors because he was the Head of State and was at many functions of public interest than the rest of the candidates. So some stories would be nation building stories and not necessarily campaign related. This is what this organization did not explain, after giving its report, in future it is good that such reasons are also explained so that the public is not misled.

 

 

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We had our highs and lows as a country during the 2016 electoral. In regard to media behavior and whether they fulfilled their role, you can make your judgement.We are grateful however that amidst these challenges we had a President that emerged from this historical competition, and that is H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

 

 

 

 

 

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