On Tuesday, journalists under their umbrella body, the Uganda Journalists Association (UJA), held a meeting with Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine to discuss the recent attacks on journalists. The issues discussed included the conduct of security operatives and professionalism in the media. Shabibah Nakirigya brings you the highlights of the meeting.
On role of journalists in society
Since I came in as minister of Security, we adopted a policy that we work with organised institutions because the future belongs to the organised ones. I tried to ask if journalists have their own organisations, they told us there is UJA and other groups. If they are organised, can we then start interacting with them more?
And I observed that [there is a barrier] between generations… That barrier that is beginning to be created between the old and the young generation is unnatural, unhealthy, uncalled for and dangerous.
We thought of that and the majority of people, especially the young people, are depending on what they are taught, feed on and this comes through your cameras, social media and articles.
Journalists have a role to play in shaping the minds of the public and young people. But we have also realised that the greatest challenge is that people do not seem to have where they come together to discuss and talk about their country.
Guiding principles for Uganda
When you hear that we spent five years in the bush fighting, every day was not for firing bullets. Actually, firing bullets was once in a while when we identified a target after studying it very well.
From morning to evening, for five years, we sat down around a fire and discussed four questions about our country: where have we come from, where are we, where have we reached, where do we intend to go and how shall we go there?
Those four questions were applied in everyday life and they are questions you can ask and you should discuss consistently in whatever you want to do. There is a statement that says people do not do what they should, but what they understand.
Therefore, for us as a country, to focus together that this is where we would like to go, can only come if we sit down and answer those four questions.
On question of youth vs the old
These old people are knowledgeable, experienced, informed, trained and powerful both politically and financially. Don’t threaten them, they can be very dangerous.
The best you can do is to partner with them, understand them and learn from them. Get ideas from them and that is how they will easily give the power which they have already got.
Partnership is the only way [forward] because they will not feel threatened by you. Like a tree with many leaves and branches, they [leaves and branches] are important, but the roots are the most important part on that tree.
Branches and leaves are seasonal, but the roots are always there to support the tree. So the partnership between the leaves and the roots is the one which makes the tree to grow.
Journalists should champion the cause of that partnership. Organise and cause different forums to discuss. Religious institutions have lasted longer because of the roots.
Welfare of journalists
Let us get organised better to solve the problem of journalists. Uganda has enough resources for all our needs, but it will only depend on how organised you are.
If journalist get organised, you can become very rich because you’re more than 10,000 members. If you started a Sacco, it will be very easy to come to a conclusion. Women groups are growing very fast in the villages.
We have agreed to put together something to support your organised structure and we are going to start with Shs10m.
Organisation of journalists
The journalism profession is very scattered, you are like artistes. I have tried to organise artistes but they are the most difficult people. For them I can understand them because they believe in individual creativity.
For journalists, you can be very original and creative but very destructive if you do not look at yourselves as part of the common goal.
How do you look at yourself, you could be a good journalist, writing very well but what guarantees your future? That question will draw you back to where you have come from, you can only be sustainable if you form a group and the environment which you’re in is good.
Media coverage of the recent protests
Can you imagine how much chaos you have created you [in the] media? In the last three weeks the environment is all scared. “Uganda is on fire,” where is the fire? I wish it was rain because when rain stops everybody goes outside.
Some of the concerns you have are because sometimes you do not work out to discuss and have a long-term future together.
On role of NGOs
We are also jealous that you have been captured by the NGOs who have a lot of interests. Their target people are the journalists. As Ugandans, for whatever you are doing, always have that in mind, “is this good for my country?”
Be careful and conscious, is what you are saying good for your country? It could be breaking news for the world, but could be against Uganda. As we speak now, because of this bad publicity you have propagated, tourists have cancelled their travels.
I’m not saying we should cover up [the truth], but you who is writing have to edit or change the bias side. You can report that this has happened but they have found a solution.