Monitor: What we agreed with government

Thursday June 6 2013

An armed police officer argues with a journalist who was protesting the closure of Monitor Publications premises last week.

An armed police officer argues with a journalist who was protesting the closure of Monitor Publications premises last week. 

By Monitor Reporter

Kampala

Monitor Publications Ltd remains committed to providing an independent media platform anchored on its core principles of independence, balance and fairness, according to a statement issued by the company’s board and management yesterday.

The statement said the company was compelled to make this public statement following numerous distortions that have been peddled in the mainstream and social media regarding the circumstances leading to the re-opening of the company’s newspaper, the Daily Monitor and two radio stations KFM and Dembe FM on May 30 after a 10-day siege by the police.

“We believe that these falsehoods have cemented the impression that the MPL caved in to government demands. It is surprising that even some well-respected media observers familiar with the MPL’s editorial policy seem to have accepted these falsehoods,” said the statement.

Out-going Internal Affairs minister Hilary Onek and the new Information Minister Rosemary Namayanja on May 30 addressed a joint press conference with the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura giving the government’s version of the events leading up to the re-opening of MPL.

Police had earlier closed MPL offices for 10 days, ostensibly to search for Gen. David Sejusa’s letter, contents of which the Daily Monitor had published in its May 7 edition, and other unspecified documents.
MPL’s board chairperson and Nation Media Group’s CEO, among other officials, subsequently engaged the government to resolve the matter.

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“At no time during the consultations did we make any concessions or sign any agreements. We reiterated our willingness to uphold the highest standards of journalism as per our policy,” it stated.

MPL thanks its readers, listeners, advertisers and associates for standing by us during the period of crisis and promise them that they should continue to expect from our platforms the highest standards of journalism, delivered professionally, with bravery and fairness. See full statement below

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MONITOR PUBLICATIONS LTD RESPONSE TO POST-CLOSURE ALLEGATIONS

There have been plenty of comments in media outlets and the social media regarding alleged “concessions” the Monitor Publications Ltd (MPL) made to the Uganda Government to facilitate the reopening of its newspaper, the Daily Monitor, and its radio stations KFM and Dembe. While some of these have been fair and near the truth, unfortunately, the majority have been misstatements and falsehoods.

MPL businesses had been closed down on May 20th, 2013 and subsequently reopened on the 30th of May, 2013. We do believe that these falsehoods have cemented the impression that the MPL caved in to government demands. It is surprising that even some well-respected media observers familiar with the MPL’s editorial policy seem to have accepted these falsehoods.

The government in its statement issued on 30th May 2013 detailed the sequence of events and presented its own version of events. We do not necessarily agree with some of the facts or the insinuations contained in there presentation, and believe that rightly or wrongly, they have fed into the general misrepresentation of facts and erroneous perceptions about the closure and discussions that have followed.

For the avoidance of doubt and to set the record straight, the MPL Management wishes to state as follows:

a)   That the closure of the MPL businesses on the May 20th was, in our view, unprovoked, unfair and illegal. That the search warrant that was presented as reason for police to enter our premises was not properly issued. That notwithstanding, we cooperated fully with the police for the period they occupied our premises.

b)  Despite MPL getting a court order on Wednesday 22nd effectively cancelling the earlier court order, police refused to vacate our premises and continued their occupation for a further 8 days.

c)   For all the time Monitor businesses were closed, Monitor management engaged government representatives to try and resolve the issues. Among some of the issues government representatives raised were that the Daily Monitor was unprofessional in its reporting that it spread unsubstantiated claims on sensitive issues like national security, the First Family and matters relating to the army.

d)  Specifically, they demanded production of a letter that was a basis of an earlier story published by the Daily Monitor, in which General David Sejusa alleged an assassination plot against him and other army leaders opposed to an alleged plot by the President to have his son Brigadier Muhoozi succeed him. Police also demanded to know the source of that letter.

e)   The consultations to resolve the impasse also involved the NMG Group Chairman and the Group CEO meeting President Museveni in Addis Ababa.

f)    At no time during the consultations did we make any concessions or sign any agreements. We reiterated our willingness to uphold the highest standards of journalism as per our policy.

g)  We did not promise not to cover any issues as demanded by the Government representatives. We consistently reiterated at the meetings that our editorial guidelines are very specific that any matters that touch on the public interest will be covered fully, fearlessly and independently subject to the values of truth, fair comment, attribution and factual accuracy.

h)  We reassured the government and top leadership that all the concerns they had expressed regarding our journalism were fully and comprehensively protected in the editorial policy guidelines and we presented copies of the guidelines to the team in Kampala led by the then Minister for Internal Security and General Kale Kayihura the IGP.

i)     In deference to the person of the President and to reaffirm our commitment to uphold our editorial policy, the NMG Board did write to President Museveni reaffirming this position and regretting that the government had found it necessary to shut down our businesses because of what it considered to be unprofessionalism on the part of our journalists. And, to his credit, all President Museveni said was critical for moving forward was a need to reaffirm the principles of fair journalism, and he specifically agreed that there should be no sacred cows.

j)    MPL therefore is surprised that its stand protecting the basic principles of good journalism in the overall context of media freedom and freedom of expression is being misrepresented as a surrender to intimidation. In all the years that MPL has run its media businesses in Uganda, it has been steadfast in its belief that good journalism is independent journalism, factual journalism and professional journalism. It has invested heavily in training its journalists to deliver on this promise. It will continue doing so with the expectation that government will, on its part, uphold its stated commitment to press freedom and the people’s right to free expression.

k)   We wish to thank our readers, listeners, advertisers and associates for standing by us during the period of our crisis and promise them that they should continue to expect from our platforms the highest standards of journalism, delivered professionally, with bravery and fairness with the best interests of Uganda at heart.

l)     In the meantime, we reserve the rights to seek remedies in court with regard to losses and other damages our businesses suffered during the closure.

SIGNED BY BOARD AND MANAGEMENT

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