Media should fight for its space

Monday May 13 2019


By Kenedy Musekura

The war between Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and the media is ranging on. UCC accuses some media houses of what it calls misrepresentation of content during live broadcasts and main news bulletins during a procession led by MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine recently.

To that effect UCC ordered these particular media houses to suspend some of their senior staff to pave way for investigations.

On the other hand, media houses are of the view that UCC is handling the matter in a shabby way and infringing on their rights to press freedom. This right is enshrined not only in the 1995 Constitution, but also various international treaties such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights of 1966, etc, all of which Uganda is a signatory to.

I understand that some people have taken UCC to court over this matter.
The push and pull between UCC and media reminds me of some of the wars between media and governments. In the 19th Century, USA had one of the newspapers known as Yellow Press. One time, this paper came under pressure from the government that questioned its ethics of deciding to concentrate on the sensational news. The paper was also accused of contributing to the assassination of president William MC Kinley in 1901 by a self-described anarchist.

The publisher of Yellow Press also believed that they were giving good services to the society and were not to relent in their cause, thus in 1907, Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the paper, run an editorial that said that his newspaper “would always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose the privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor …never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.’’

During his reign, president Theodore Roosevelt too, rubbed the media in the wrong way when he used the term, muckraker, pejoratively. In one of the speeches during the laying of the cornerstone of one of the journalist on the House of Representatives office building in Washington, Roosevelt said: “In ( John) Bungan’s pilgrim’s progress, you may recall the description of the man with muckrake…there is filth on the floor and must be scrapped up with the muckrake, and there are times and places where this service is most needed of all …
But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speakers or writes save of his feats with muckrake, speedily becomes, not a help to society not incitement to good but of the most potent forces of evils.’’

It seems governments are always suspicious of the media and if the latter does not stand to fight for its right and space, governments will always want to fill the vacuum.
Kenedy Musekura,