Monthly Archives: May 2013

WHY THE UGANDAN PUBLIC IGNORED THE MEDIA SIEGE

I have been following the bashings that many rights campaigners have been levying at the Ugandan public regarding our indifference to the Government siege of the Monitor Publications and Red Pepper Publications offices.

I do personally believe that what the Government of Uganda did by blocking offices for a week under the guise of looking for a letter that could have come electronically borders with insanity. Infact I would recommend the architect of this siege to try a career with Richard Leakey perhaps they can do better searching for Stone age relics.

Now to the media houses, for long you have and continue to feed us with news that concentrates on women nudity, alcohol binges, serial daters, sex scandals, drivers of monstrous cars like Hummers, creating celebrities out of nothing among others. What you don’t know is that progressively, you are adjusting our mindsets to stop being bothered about the serious issues of life and instead appreciate the softer and less important aspects.

Why is it important to publish the A List of rich people in Kampala for example?

Why should Hyena invest so much time and effort in concocting sexually explicit articles and still get publishing space from the Red Pepper daily?

I could go on and on but this is not the time to glorify pedestrian publishing.

So, considering how much you have fed us with below average content, where do you expect us to get the mindset to address serious challenges to the press like the Government Siege of your premises and its implications to the future of the press in Uganda? If we had been given an opportunity to read and learn from you about these fundamental necessities in our society, then maybe we could have come up in arms. But you chose to follow the money. Hence the famous proverb; “As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.“

Right now Multichoice is feeding us with an endless broadcast of some elitist men and women whose job is to use the most lewd means possible to win a jackpot prize in hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am told some people are so addicted to watching this mild porn to the extent that their productivity during this period is highly suspect. What much would you expect of such a fanatic? To stand at the gate of the Monitor Publications offices and be tear-gassed? For what cause by the way? I believe such a character will only be willing to go to such extents if the Government decided to deny him/her their conjugal rights because that is all they learn from such shows.

So, what lessons do we learn from this siege?

  1. Garbage in Garbage Out; What you feed the public is what you get out of it. This answers the question why the Ngoma (Luganda daily) newspaper that the Monitor Publications had launched failed.
  2. You want allies, build them. You cant plant a Mango Tree and expect Jack fruit from it. Start sensitizing we the public on the kind of issues that will increase our alertness as civil society and you will see a big difference.
  3. There is nothing like free press in the world anymore. Even in the countries that we so much admire like the USA, the concept of the free press is a myth. In 1983, 90% of American media was owned by 50 companies; in 2011, the same 90% was controlled by 6 companies. This has even made it easier to control what the Americans get from the media. In Uganda, between The New Vision Group and Monitor Publications, they control over 60% of the media. With the New Vision being firmly under Government control, we had the Daily Monitor to help as a balancing act only to realize that based on this article published on the 31st of May 2013, we can as well kiss the free/independent press good bye.

I can say with certainty that Mr. Onyango Obbo and Hon Wafula Oguttu are weeping wherever they are. This is certainly not the Monitor Newspaper they founded after abandoning the Weekly Topic decades ago.

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SIM Card Registration? Stop the Nonsense!!

Another deadline looms, SIM card registration has become a cat and mouse game in Uganda. The Ministry of ICT (MoICT) made a public communication in 2012 announcing the commencement of this process and this was done hand in hand with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). On its website, the MoICT clearly stated; “Do not wait for the habitual last minute rush! The only person who should be afraid of SIM registration, naturally, is the criminally-minded who knows that their days are numbered after all existing SIM Cards are registered. Therefore, join the winning team by registering your SIM at the nearest registration centre.”

Fast forward to February 2013 as the original deadline was round the corner, Phone Subscribers and Telecoms companies were up in arms claiming that they were not in position to register all their subscribers due to lack of ample time to do so. They also cited reasons like the challenges of reaching out to the rural areas where a significant number of subscribers exists and potential loss of revenue. The UCC caved in and accepted an extension.

I was one of those that attended a consultative meeting by UCC prior to the previous deadline in which I clearly stated that they should not cave in to pressure from the Telcos and Subscribers since it is a typical Ugandan attitude of always expecting nothing to fall through as panned. I even prophesied that irrespective of the extension given, we would have a repeat of the same cries come the revised deadline.

Its now May 2013 and the deadline is due once again. We are seeing a repeat of the same games the Telecoms in Uganda have become accustomed to playing as evidenced in this article by the Daily Monitor. The Corporate Affairs Manager of MTN, Ms. Justina Ntabgoba is quoted as saying “We still have close to 15 percent of our customers yet to register.”

In my honest view, this is utter hogwash. The telecoms are looking at this issue from the lens of revenue while UCC is looking at it from the lens of security. These two just will never converge and the call is for the regulator to make the tough but wise decision.

Mr. Fred Otunnu of UCC was quoted by the Observer Newspaper as saying that the extended registration deadline would not be changed. This is the time now to see who lives by their word. The UCC has always been accused of being feeble when it comes to pertinent issues and decisive when it comes to issues that ruffle Statehouse as evidenced with the ‘Walk to Work’ protests in 2011.

Mr. Mutabazi and your team, its time to prove to Ugandans that you are not the spineless lot that you have been depicted to be at UCC. Any stay of this decision beyond this year will mean battling it out with the myopically minded politicians who will turn the issue political. Their lazy constituents will send threats of voting them out of power if they don’t stop SIM card Registration and that’s when the real fun will begin.

I love Uganda.

When the Victim enjoys the Limelight

The Government of Uganda decides to cordon off two leading publishing houses in Uganda and the usual suspect Monitor Publications Ltd (MPL) happens to be one of them.

First the Police

First and foremost, it is a shame to hear the PR machinery of the Uganda Police Force attribute this act to the need to search for an ‘Original Letter’ that the now in apparent exile General Sejusa sent to these media houses for publication. In a message on their facebook page, the Uganda Police had this to say; “Uganda Police, on May 15, 2013, received a Court Order, from the Chief Magistrates Court Nakawa, requiring Daily Monitor journalists to avail and provide the original copy of a letter and other related documents, purportedly authored by Gen. David Sejusa (a.k.a. Tinyefuza), and the source of the said missive. The said documents are to help police investigate criminal offences.

 

Now in this day and age of digital communication, does one need to have a hard copy as a way of authoring a document or proof of authoring one? Afande Kayihura and his boys are facing the grave challenge of trying to play Palace politics in a digitally challenged institution where competence has been built along the tried and tested physical commodities. It is the reason there is a classic joke of this official who went to a Police station in Kampala and the following exchange took place:

Official: “Afande (Policeman), I want to report a case of my data that was stolen.”

Afande:Ehhh !!! Where did they steal the data?”

Official: “From my Computer.”

Afande: “But you have the computer. How can the data be stolen then?”

Official:They hacked into my PC, copied and then erased it off.”

Afande: “Acked? What is that? How much data did they steal?”

Official:An entire folder of files”

Afande: “Then go and buy new box files.”

[At this point, the Official realized that he had a bigger problem on his hands and just gave up the attempt to pursue justice]

Now if this is the kind of Digital preparedness behind our elite Police Force, I don’t get surprised when their PR machinery goes ahead to make another announcement on Facebook that; “We shall continue 2 occupy & search Monitor and Red Pepper premises until we retrieve the said letter of Gen.Sejusa”. The Electronic Transactions Act of 2011 clearly empowers the courts to recognize electronic sources of information as evidence. Could it be that the custodians of the law are not comfortable with electronic documentation and hence prefer the tried and tested Hard Print paper?

Now to The Monitor Publications

All this aside, I do greatly sympathise with the Monitor Publication (MPL) and its staff who are spending time idling yet they would be making money the way they know best. A day off the streets has lots of implications not only to the staff and business owners but also external stakeholders like advertisers.

I have known MPL for being a victim of Government’s high handedness all these years since they began operations. That way, I have always taken it for granted that they have mutated and learnt to survive against all odds.

What I am now beginning to suspect is that they seem to have developed a new hobby and that is enjoying the limelight of being perceived as victims of an unjust system. For a newspaper of their nature with the heavy muscle of the Agha Khan behind them to have its operations grind to a halt as a result of an office siege is akin to someone giving an excuse of not communicating because their Post Office is closed. Gone are the days when physical premises ruled in terms of media publishing. With all the alternative approaches to Disaster Recovery that I believe an elite company like MPL should be subscribing to already, there should be no way for their operations to be totally halted like they seem to have.

Failure to get a copy on the streets? A lesser-known Red Pepper has been able to switch to Guerilla Publishing tactics and has remained in production. How about the Daily Monitor?

Since I know the kind of brains behind the IT systems in MPL and the Nation Media Group, I have no doubt that the capacity to overcome such a siege using electronic means exists. My observations lead me to think that;

  1. Some one is simply not eager enough to do his job to its fullest and ensure that the employer (MPL) gets value for money, or
  2. The MPL is just happy with the status-quo since it wins them sympathy and hence potential growth in subscriber base.

If both my observations above are wrong, then the only other reason is simple and clear. The Monitor Publication and Police Force are living in the Digital Stone Age and need a lot of soul searching to join the rest of the world.