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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28 responses to “WHY THE UGANDAN PUBLIC IGNORED THE MEDIA SIEGE

  1. Michael Lukoma

    Generally I agree with the article’s premise about all the junk being fed to Ugandans by their newspapers. Its all part of the incredible “noise” that is part of living in Uganda. I have told people that I care about to ‘turn down the volume on that crap!!” But as he says Garbage In Garbage Out. Simple things like spelling and good grammar are left to the wind, so if the secondary school kids read the papers then where will their language skills improve from. I do think that his piece is not entirely accurate, i think there is merit in many of the self-help, self-improvement style articles that encourage people to do business, eat healthier and work out problems in their employment.. Maybe its because I am a stress-management counsellor, that i find them very educational. Many of the Human Resource advice columns are excellent. What I also love about them is that they are written for the Ugandan market, and they make sense of Uganda for Ugandans.. Don’t completely dog the tabloids like Red Pepper, sometimes they record the real news first. In N America, they told us way back that “Whitney was on crack!!” (RIP) and many doubted, but it was real, it partially led to her demise. So all in all we could do with better editing, and some more investigative journalism, but in my field of health, the media is well informed, and make tremendous exposes on the weaknesses of the health system. They report accurately on HIV/AIDS, they help remove stigma. In fact sometimes I feel they bombard the public with too much health information… but then again if the health system is sick.. the populace needs that information from somewhere.

  2. Pingback: Is the media letting the public down? | AFRICAN CENTRE FOR MEDIA EXCELLENCE

  3. just 1 word for u “wow”

  4. Pingback: WHY THE UGANDAN PUBLIC IGNORED THE MEDIA SIEGE (PART II) | Songa Samuel-Stone

  5. I take your point about crap journalism and accept your observation that it is a world wide issue but I think that you are being a bit hard on your fellow Ugandans. It would be fair to call Uganda a fledgling democracy and whilst as a New Zealander in NZ I am happy to take the piss out of my government for anything it is a culture that has developed over centuries.
    Uganda is not in that space. I think that it is reasonable for Ugandan’s to adopt a cautious approach and I hate to think what the regime response would have been to mass protest. One only needs to look at the socialy conservative shit the Ugandan parliament proproses ( kill gays, ban skirts etc) to see some justification for a focus on C grade tabloid news. Maybe Bad Black and her silicon represent a subtle challenge to the accepted ruling hegemony.

  6. Nicholas kariuki

    nice blog.it look like museveni govt is lost in 70s

  7. I welcome thorough, investigative journalism that exposes the corrupt and the unjust. I wish Red Pepper was such an august organ. Alas not.
    As a one-time “victim” of Red Pepper spray (i.e. plain lies and fabrication) it’s not easy to feel sympathy for the (temporary) demise of a publication whose modus operandi was bashing innocents, propagating smut, thumb-sucking facts and traducing the good names of anybody they wished, when plain old sensationalism wasn’t quite good enough.
    Would the non-appearance of Red Pepper bother me? I think not. It’s like asking if I’d be disappointed not to find a ring of scum around my bath tub after I’ve had taken a bath. I’m not disappointed by the non-appearance of scum. Frankly, I feel cleaner without it.

    • I can understand the bitterness, I have been “Pepper sprayed” in the past myself but I’d still counsel that we ought to sit up and reflect, better still, stand up and protest, any affront to free media. Why? Because the government’s tussle with Monitor/RP in the last two weeks tells of a dark cloud circling free expression, and reminds us of a government unashamed of abusing its own laws/misapplying authority to get its way. If it can happen to RP, rest assured it can/will, could/would come to your bank, fuel station, supermarket, grocery, name all…

  8. Well written. Had never thought of this angle before.

  9. Mr James thanks for your thoughts. They are really provocative. Some of them tell the extent of disappointment readers/audience sometimes get from the media. Suffice to note that the media is never homogenous. Most mass media outlets have target audience because they cannot write or attend to everyone. Mass media do what is called audience segmentation. That’s why you will find Ugandans who are interested in reading/viewing/listening to stuff about sex, politics, economics, culture, and what you call “serious issues” whatever you mean by that, among others. The reasoning is simple: interests of the audience are never the same so a media outlet chooses its target audience.
    Besides, we should be seen to defend the freedom of media in spite of their defects /imperfections. Thomas Jefferson once said: “The only security of all is in a free press.” Sir William Blackstone, a 19th century British judge saw the value of free press in saying: “The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state… Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.”
    You’ve every right to be disappointed with Ugandan press for failing to touch your interests but I think it would be erroneous to suppose media in Uganda is irrelevant and when being threatened by the state you begin smiling. By the way, who is “we” and “us” in your article?

    • Thanks for this enlightening brief. I have certainly picked up alot from it and in future I certainly will even get more specific. Maybe I generalised alot this time round. As for the ‘we’, I speak for a number of people that I interact with on a daily basis who seem very dissatisfied with the status-quo. I think the problem is the expectations we have of certain publications. While i would forgive RP for doing it that way coz it is their established style, I would be less lenient to Daily Monitor and New Vision when they start making the likes of Bad Black headline news while ignoring the lots of Ugandans out there productively contributing to the economy who would have benefitted from that front page space.

  10. Hahaha my boss my foot! Do hyenas have bosses. Well Chinua Achebe RIP had this to say: If you don’t like my story write yours and I would add if you don’t like my newspaper publish your.s

    • We are not all meant to publish newspapers. However its our duty to check each other. I did just that. Thanks for reading my blog and am glad the message sank, judging by your continuous engagement. God Bless you Mr/Mrs Hyena.

  11. Then u shd thank Monitor and RP bcoz if it was not for their closure who would have read your crap anyway. Since u r at pain with keeping Ugandans in ignorance I challenge u to publish a newspaper and I bet it will survive more than a week when you are going to fill your pages with lessons about digging toileys etc. BTW u sound like a frusytrated nkubakyeyo who think being an economic exile is a reason to look down upon those who have been innovative enaf and stayed behind in the harsh economy.

    • Mr/Mrs Hyena, what is wrong with being a nkuba kyeyo? Do you know how much they remit to the Ugandan economy annually? Have you realised that even the Govt has decided to pay special attention to those remittances? Your boss Mugumya acknowledged that the article says alot of sense and am sure he is an investor in Red Pepper so what is your problem? His tweet stated; “this is very reasonable and true. Thanks”. I pray that we all remain level headed and discuss the issues I presented as opposed to letting emotions take centre stage.

  12. Eriasa Mukiibi

    TiredOfCrap, I am a journalist at Monitor myself. I feel bad that we have fallen short of servicing your expectations. But I still urge you to be willing to defend the existence of Monitor and other media houses. “When the media styles up, maybe…just maybe…we can stand by you,” you write. But consider this: How will media houses become professional without trying it out for a long time? I would assume that media houses are bound to become finer with practice and experience. During that time, they will certainly make mistakes and sometimes even seem to retrogress. But one hopes that on the whole they will improve with time. Also, if you think about it, even in its current form, which I believe you consider terribly imperfect, media still does serve some purposes. Take the Sejusa story, for instance. Journalists have not forgotten that Sejusa was among their biggest tormentors for a long time. But when he came out crying, media was willing to document his complaints, not necessarily because they agreed with, or endorsed him, but because they would do the same thing if Museveni lost power and started complaining about how the government of day treats him. Even the powerful today ought to know that it is the media which will be around to highlight their grievances when they are no longer so powerful. To the author of the artice: I take your observations with humility, mindful that you are better placed to know what you want to read in a newspaper than me who writes the articles.

    • Thanks for the dimension you introduce. I hope the likes of Mr/Mrs Hyena from Red Pepper can take on your approach of engaging non media professionals like me. We need to find each other midway.

  13. that is why I love blogging. If you had taken this article to some media houses. Some would have trashed it but we know the truth. The media is failing somewhere and they just wont take it. but facts speak for themselves. The problem is that they publish want they want and then they convince us that it is what we want

  14. TiredOfCrap

    hahaha..this Hyena guy must have an inferiority complex.
    He can’t even defend himself with facts or counter arguments??!
    Anyway, thanks James for this perspective.
    I believe Ugandan Media is a joke and we would not for one second stand to defend such an indisciplined and unprofessional set of jokers.
    I for one was happy to just have them silenced if only for a week.
    The crap Red Pepper and monitor publish reeks of amateurs who have never seen the inside of a classroom.

    When the media styles up, maybe…just maybe…we can stand by you.

  15. I also dont agree with you on the story types…Although sex stories feature in Red Pepper, quote many stories focusing on issues feature as well. Monitor Publication also focuses majorly on issues. For your information by the way, the closure of these publication had nothjing to do with sex stories…am sure you know why they were closed..so-called Muhozi project…as alleged in a letter by Gen. Sejusa. By the way, while Ugandans ignored similarly the way they ignored Besgye led protests, Journalists fought and won the war alone.

  16. Your copied and pasted figures about ownership of US media don’t impress me at all. Just tell me for instance why Kim Kardashan being pregnant would be a seller in UK’s Sun which BTW sells millions of copies and the same story cannot even make a paragraph in The Financial Times. Different media are meant for different people. If you don’t want to watch Big Brother go on and watch National Geographic and you have no authority to think every you Ugandan should watch what you want or every newspaper should pubish that junk of yours.

    • I am learning from you. Please continue the lecture Sir/Madam. I am sorry if the figures I quoted offended you. I pray that you teach me. You have that opportunity.

      • I dont think tjis writer reads ugandan newspaper. U article is too shallow and narrow minded. Go back to the drawing board

  17. U seem to know very little about media. Who told u all newspapers are supposed to publish wat u call serious things? Don’t pretend to be an expert in a field u are utterly ignorant about. Definately Onyango Obbo and Wafula Ogutti can write for themselves and u don’t have the slightest ability to do it for them.

    • Dear Mr/Mrs Hyena, its true I am not an expert at the media and that is why I have never purported to be. I wrote this article from a lay man’s perspective. Please educate me more Sir/Madam. I am always ready to learn for as long as you too are ready to teach me without being arrogant.

    • hahaha. is this the real “Mr. Hyena”? He might be the one because he seems to be pissed. Don’t listen to this stuff from James. For us we like reading Mr. Hyena. To hell with Ugandan politics.

      • Steve, its ok. The day you realise the cost of an Ignorant populace, it might be too late … The media plays a big role in ensuring that the general populace is at par either positively or negatively.

  18. James, I couldn’t agree more with you on so many of the issues you stated here especially about the media feeding us with news that concentrates on women nudity, serial daters etc. This adds no value to anyone but rather advances stereotypes.

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