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;
- 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
- 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.