National Unity Platform (NUP) is currently a hot cake. They make news. NUP’s phenomenal performance in the just concluded 2021 elections lends them gravitas.
Their leader Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, hitherto dismissed as a mere weed smoking musician from the ghettos of Kamwokya, put up a formidable performance. His team jumped many State-inspired huddles to come second in an outright shambolic election.
Now Bobi Wine is not happy with NBS Television for what he called ‘relaying doctored results’ to disadvantage him after the election. Many of his overzealous supporters are now calling for a boycott of the television station and threatening its reporters.
Bobi Wine and NUP feel aggrieved that they were robbed of their victory so it is understandable. Also airing their grievance to the media house is playing within the rules. Feedback is good.
What is bad is letting emotions run away and ending up appearing like NUP has a misguided sense of entitlement. That it must be covered exactly the way it wants to be covered. That its opinion on everything is an uncontestable fact and anything out of this is bias, unethical and unprofessional.
A private media house like NBS has a public duty to inform, entertain and educate, no doubt.
But it also has its own objectives. That said, it also has a duty to report even the things many may not like or agree with.
Sometimes like any other media house, they will get things right, other times they will be wrong. But they should not be crucified, but rather be engaged if need be.
That aside, what would be better is to see the many opportunities that have come with this development for NUP and the Opposition.
Rejection is not always a bad thing. It may open doors to opportunities unknown hitherto. The secret lies in taking advantage of the ever advancing Internet and communication technology.
In the just concluded 2021 General Election, the Uganda government was seriously exposed as being rather clueless in as far as stamping its presence and dominating the Opposition on the Internet.
The old days of locking the Opposition out of the traditional media be it radio or television are all but gone. It got so bad that at one point, the government tried to bar the social media accounts that were giving the Opposition coverage (fair and biased) in real time.
When this failed, they threw the baby out with the bath water by totally shutting down the Internet, hence affecting the economy and all things dependent on the Internet.
In 2021 the so-called traditional media on many occasions played second fiddle to social media.
That should tell NUP and the Opposition where to invest their energies. People who follow events are no fools, they will know where to get their news from.
Besides, not everyone watches TV or buys newspapers, although the few who do may be a critical mass that influence policy. But still, it is small compared with say the vast numbers that may be told to ‘tick the umbrella,’ bus or the key on a single post on social media.
Soon those who want to mask the facts will have no option, but to tidy up in order to remain relevant. Relevance is where the people are not where a media house wishes to take them.
The old model where the public had to wait a full day or for prime news in the evening to get informed is in the past. The same applies to the position of the journalist who knew it all and had the last word on everything. Now almost everyone is a reporter, producer and managing editor.
ICT and social media has put the traditional media to the test and now, it has to play catch up to the vast sources on the Internet that keep popping up almost daily.
A political party such as NUP, FDC, UPC, etc, must now have a reliable and updated website plus presence on all popular social media apps.
These should have dedicated professionals to keep them fresh with all sorts of facts and figures making them a go-to for those who want information on as many aspects on Uganda as possible.
The advantage with this is that their message is relayed globally in real time and in raw form if need be. Closing them down is not easy and when it happens, it does not come cheap for it may involve closing down the entire Internet.
Dealing with them is a nightmare as it exposes the autocratic nature of the State to the fact that it has limitations unlike in the past where you simply closed down the door of a media house, switched off the printer and went off with the transmitter.
Bobi Wine himself made several well received and shared presidential broadcasts using Facebook. There is no reason why NUP should in any way antagonise sections of the Fourth Estate.
Rather, NUP should move on and build capacity to broadcast its message aggressively. That is the blessing in disguise.