Last week on November 7, the Daily Monitor published a story online with the screaming headline, “Amama Mbabazi’s daughter appointed to NWSC Board”. The story was illustrated with a photo of the smiling former prime minister.
The same story was splashed across many online news sites – Trumpet News, PML Daily, Soft Power News, Daily Media, The Edge, Chimp Reports, Spy Reports, and Watchdog-Uganda – with more or less the same headline. The story was, however, illustrated with either a mugshot of a beaming Racheal Ciconco (the former prime minister’s daughter in question), or a photo of her and her father while on the 2016 presidential election trail.
Clearly, all the online media figured that the name of the appointee, Racheal Ciconco (some spelt it as Kiconco), was less prominent than that of her father so they sought to anchor the story on the father’s name.
When Daily Monitor online shared the story on its Facebook page, there were 1.5k likes or dislikes, 399 comments and 99 shares! However, many readers were unhappy with how the Daily Monitor handled the story – headline and photo - as noted in selected comments below:
Jacobs Odongo Seaman: “Okay, the daughter has no ID, can’t she at least have a photo? Her father must gobble up her ID and even photo?”
Alice Ruhindi-Eka: “My niece’s name is Racheal Ciconco, not “Amama Mbabazi’s daughter.” She has her own vote and professional career. Please give her the respect she deserves. Rachael has earned her place on merit. It is rather annoying to describe a professional woman as ‘XYX daughter’.”
Winter Lawyerz: “To the journalist who captured that and went around to write about JPAM’s political career, are the three other appointees orphans or their father’s identities have no relevancy at all? This selective journalism truly portrays how untruthful you are.”
Kaganda Junior: “The appointment of a prominent person’s daughter will always make news in whichever part of the world. Monitor hasn’t done anything wrong. Relax!”
Enock Mukiza: So what’s the point of putting Amama Mbabazi’s photo not the daughter who has been appointed? At least everyone knows Amama Mbabazi but not everyone knows the appointed Daughter.”
Bungha: “For those asking where is the picture of the daughter? That’s the picture of the daughter; she totally resembles her dad!”
This story reminded me of another more or less similar story published in the Daily Monitor on September 12, 2018, which I did not have opportunity to comment on. It was headlined: “Moses Ali children wanted by Interpol”.
What is common about these two stories, and the matter readers are raising is that innocent third parties have been dragged into the stories merely because they are related to the people who the stories are about, and that their profiles are bigger than the story subjects.
Indeed, journalists grapple with this issue everyday as they make decisions about the catchiest headline that will attract readers to the story. Sometimes there is justification to create the linkage, but at other times it is completely unnecessary, at least not in the headline! Even then, one must, however, be very careful so they don’t injure the reputation of a relative or put unnecessary focus on them.
The NMG Editorial Guidelines have a provision on this subject titled, ‘Innocent relatives and friends.’ It states:
“The media should generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime, or otherwise unfavourably featured in news stories, unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime, legal or other proceedings.”
The same provision is found in international journalism code of ethics. Thus from the above, former premier Mbabazi perhaps has no grounds to complain about breach of journalists’ code of ethics, but certainly Gen Moses Ali does because “his” story had negative connotations!
Journalists should therefore pay more attention when associating prominent people with story subjects so their reputations are not unnecessarily injured. Naturally no one complains when their reputations are enhanced, with headline such as, “Kiprotich’s friend gets big job”.
That said, readers would have benefited more if the stories had carried a little more information about who Racheal Ciconco is in terms of her professional and academic qualifications and also perhaps spoken to her and asked her what difference she hopes to make.
Unfortunately, for all that carried the story, it started and ended with Amama Mbabazi!
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