President Museveni has said Uganda now is unstoppable on its road to transformation and called on the media as stakeholders to have serious debates on the country’s development process.
The President was meeting media owners and senior managers at State House, Entebbe at the inaugural Presidential Media Roundtable during which he made a strong presentation of Africa’s historic struggle against colonialism and the need for patriotism and Pan-Africanism.
“When the media come to see me, I am tempted to tell them this kaboozi, our gyenvudde, our history and our story,” he said.
The meeting was held under the theme, “The role of the media in Nation Building: Aligning the media with government’s agenda 2040.”
“Never again will a black man be at risk of survival. I don’t want anybody to have an illusion that we shall compromise on the survival of our people. Uganda now is unstoppable. Nobody can stop us now. We have pushed for patriotism, pan-Africanism, socio- economic transformation and ideological orientation; our views are tested. What I expect is a serious debate on your side in writing. If you don’t agree with Pan-Africanism for example, what are your views,” he said.
The President who held a jovial and frank discussion with the media owners and managers said the media should have a responsibility not to be channels of maligning.
“You can see when somebody is telling a lie deliberately. You have a responsibility to filter information. You own and run the media. I am telling you that if you want your people to survive, we should push for patriotism, economic transformation and Pan-Africanism,” he said.
Mr Museveni, while contributing to remarks by the media that government officials do not honour invitations to radio talk shows, said talk shows must be time bound to allow people work.
“These talk shows; when do people work? Should political talk shows be every hour? There is a difference between a talk show and hatred campaign,” he said.
On the issue of social media, Mr Museveni emphasized that it is going to be controlled to stop hate messages.
“We are going to control it. We know who is spreading hate messages. We shall go for them. You must bring discipline in your systems,” he said.
Politicians owning media houses
On politicians owning radio stations, the President tasked a committee formed by the media owners, to review the decision by the licensing body – Uganda Communications Commission – on whether to continue giving licences to politicians.
Regarding the beating on of journalists by security agencies, the President cautioned the Police against the practice and said at most, they can just confiscate their cameras.
“Media should be part of the transformation process; otherwise you are parasites. Don’t be on the wrong side of history or a problem to your continent,” he said.
The President said the media have breached the social contract with the people by disseminating wrong information.
"The media practitioners are supposed to inform if it’s informed, educate masses if they are educated themselves," he said, blaming officials of the NRM Secretariat for not countering media distortions.
Distortion of facts
He said the NRM is a Party of revolution that fought for freedom because there was no other way in the country.
"When I read what you write and broadcast, I feel sorry for Africa. No seriousness, no concern for Africa and Uganda. But for us, we ignore and sometimes try to correct distortions that the media puts out,” he said.
The over 40 media managers, including Kin Kariisa, the CEO NBS TV, Daniel Kalinaki who is the general manager-editorial for NMG Uganda, Robert Kabushenga chief executive officer Vision Group, Peter Ssematimba of Super FM, Johnson Omollo Chief executive officer of NTV, Pastor Robert Kayanja of Channel 44 TV and Francis Babu of Metro FM, among others shared with the President their views of the State relationship with the fourth estate including lack of information from government, media harassment, lack of digital and social media in key government institutions and lack of balance cards to hold government Ministers to account.
Uganda has over 297 radio stations, 40 TV stations and numerous newspapers.
The Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze, called for better working relationship between government and the media adding that the media should have dialogue with the government, play complementary role to government plans, emphasize stringent gatekeeping role and have control, more especially on social media filtered content.
"Gatekeeping role of journalists should be emphasized. Separate opinions and news, " he said.
Fair and balanced content
Tumwebaze appealed to media houses’ owners to oversee their employees/journalists with kin eye so that they don't behave like political activists in news reporting and to stop maligning the State in news contents.
"Journalists should stick to the fairness and balanced content by reporting objectively,” he said.
The President agreed to a suggestion by the media owners to establish a committee that will formally document and raise all the issues to be addressed by government.
Other pertinent issues raised from the media owners rotate around paying multiple taxes, fights among politicians using the media especially during campaigns, assaulting journalists citing Police incidences, regulating inciting campaigns, talk shows especially on broadcast media, serious control over social media and who qualifies to own an FM radio station, among others.