Last week, parliamentary reporters kicked up a furore after it emerged that Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, through the Parliament Commission, was considering injecting money into a savings and credit association of the reporters as they had requested in a meeting with her. The reporters also reportedly asked for a standard allowance to be paid to them by Parliament.
The reporters, under their 265-strong Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), claimed some of their members are poorly paid by the media houses they work for, so an allowance for covering Parliament activities would come in handy in making ends meet. This position was passionately articulated by the UPPA chairman in a rejoinder letter shared on social media
A week later, another story in the same category was reported by the Daily Monitor under the headline ‘Gen Saleh pledges to fund Muslim journalists’ Sacco.’ The money to be injected into the association that brings together Muslim journalists will reportedly come from the Micro-Finance Support Centre (MSC), according to the association’s secretary general.
MSC is a government agency.
The public (and many journalists outside these associations) is right to be agitated because they believe – and rightly so – that this could compromise the journalists thus making it difficult for them to objectively cover these institutions and the people associated with them.
After all, goes the old adage, “he who pays the piper calls the tune” — whatever name the payment is called!
In fact one contributor, Francis Tumwekwasize Bahene, writing on a Uganda Journalists Facebook Group page, put it aptly: “When a dog that is meant to watch over its master from a distance joins the master in the dining room, it ceases to be called a ‘watchdog’, it turns into a ‘pet dog’.”
Nation Media Group’s editorial policy specifically guides its journalists on this matter in Part III titled: ‘Ethical Principles: Code of Conduct and Ethics for NMG Journalists.’ It states:
Conflict of interest and unfair advantage
“The Nation Media Group practices a policy of zero-tolerance to corrupt practices. In this regard, its journalists and editors must be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know the truth.
Gifts, bribes, brown envelopes, favours, free travel, free meals or drinks, special treatment or privileges can compromise the integrity of journalists, editors and their employers. Journalists, editors and their employers should conduct themselves in a manner that protects them from conflicts of interest, real or apparent.
It is important not only to avoid conflicts of interest but also the appearances of such conflicts. In this connection, all situations capable of creating undue familiarity will be avoided or handled cautiously. In addition, journalists and editors must not allow their political or religious affiliations; views or morals and ethics to influence their editorial judgment.”
I got feedback from some readers with regard to NMG journalism and below I share two of them. I use only the first name to respect their privacy:
Aubrey: I normally read Daily Monitor and listen to KFM, these being my two media platforms for NMG. These are my concerns:
l Daily Monitor print has deteriorated in terms of quality of the images, which at times makes it look like a shoddy print media which it isn’t in anyway in my view.
l I feel there is great improvement in terms of balanced reporting, especially giving coverage of government programmes, national interest and “progressive” coverage.
l The number of pages [Daily Monitor] has reduced over time. At times you buy a paper and it is hardly 40 pages.
Generally, I feel you are progressing although there is a general feel of declined satisfaction in the newspaper for me.
John: I have observe that the national broadcaster [UBC news] seems to have picked something from NTV, not with those new female curvy (no disrespect implied) female news anchors, perfectly styled in spectacles. Indeed some are now NTV-UBC look-a-likes. Without the logo, you can mistakenly think you have switched to NTV, yet it is UBC!
Female anchors aside, this phenomenon seems to be cutting across the entire TV media landscape. Thus without TV logos, today it is very challenging to differentiate the TV channels in Uganda. I am wondering whether the copyright law is ineffective in this regard.
Thanks John and Aubrey for the barbs and bouquets. The issues you raise have been brought to the attention of NMG-Uganda management and the editors. Remember too, that imitation is the greatest from of compliment!
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or call/text on +256 776 500725.