Publicity: How much can  one reveal to the public

Monday September 14 2020
By Samuel Baligidde

Niccolò Machiavelli once advised that a prince [leader or politician] was obliged to know well how to act as a beast in which case he would imitate the fox which knows how to avoid traps and the lion which is fierce but cannot protect itself from them. 

He specifically said that “one must therefore be a fox to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this”. 

In the context of contemporary politics, there’s a dilemma of determining whether to be a lion or a fox.  

When a politician reveals he/she is finished; when they say little they are still finished! It’s a Catch-22 situation. 
      It is probably okay for a politician to maintain that by being brief his message becomes obscure. 

That seems to be the incumbent’s style which should be respected. Being an ideological fighter, he probably doesn’t take social media bullying sitting down but tries to neutralise it; and as he often tells the nation, he wins.

 The New Vision missive detailing personal information was credible. Was it necessary for him to go into so much detail to respond to social media provocation? Shouldn’t he have imitated the fox? 


In the same vein, was it prudent for NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi to call a press conference to reveal so much personal history about his education and early family life when a court case questioning his integrity had already been filed? 
      The careers and reputations of politicians, businessmen, professionals and other celebrities are enhanced by good publicity but vice versa is also true. Publicity during campaigns is sometimes sought by the said persons themselves or their agents. 

From a diplomatic protocol perspective though, it isn’t in good taste for eminent people to seek publicity except during political campaigns but from a practical point of view men and women in the public eye are asked to cooperate with those who want to write something about their life-styles or their qualifications and so on. 

If one agrees to that they should cooperate pleasantly and give whatever information they can as long as it’s not of a very intimate nature yet it’s this that makes news on social media as well as in mainstream journalism. 

The interviewee should respect the privacy of his/her family and not reveal matters that could cause them embarrassment.

     Being called Jack of all trades and master of none, is infuriating. However, my transition from diplomacy to academia was cushioned-off by a brief but phenomenal position as office manager at the leading law firm of the time Katende, Ssempebwa and Company Advocates. 

The experience left a lasting impression which combined with the interdisciplinary academic default of creative inquiry, fuels my obsession for seeking empirical explanations from outside my current occupation in higher education and former professional one of diplomacy. The following reflections are based on the very few basics about the law I was exposed to in the course of my duties. So, bear with my layman’s misperceptions. 

Whereas the explanations are acceptable, I suppose truth is no defence unless it is for public benefit. As for fair journalism and the public interest, do not Uganda’s journalists’ laws provide for citizen’s privacy protection when offensive intrusions that seemingly appear to be an instrument in the social media toolkit are obvious or proved? 
  Yet, Uganda’s mainstream and social media allegedly use all of them with seemingly great abandon. 

British courts will apparently grant an injunction to prevent the wrongful disclosure of information obtainable through circumstances of confidentiality or rightful employment. As for the British, no injunction is granted if there’s no confidentiality or when it’s against public policy but only the injured party may seek injunction.

Mr Samuel Baligidde is a lecturer in Democracy, Governance and Public Policy.