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Media is abusing its freedomPublish Date: Sep 22, 2011
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The development of the media in Uganda in the last two decades is one of the outstanding success stories of the NRM government, to the pride of all Ugandans. Sadly there is a part of the story that is not so good.

There have been, for a long time, elements within the media who have abused the environment of free expression, by making themselves available to the highest bidder in the political arena with all its ugly wars.

Many people including myself have fallen victim to this uncurbed vice, with facts being skewed and stories being sensationalized in an effort to increase sales and direct public opinion for the benefit of private agenda.

For some reason the country, and indeed the world, appears to have accepted this state of affairs as a fact of life, hence the sensational serialization of Wikileaks which is, itself, an encroachment on personal privacy.

Sometimes, though, the stories are so outrageous that one is forced to respond.

The Daily Monitor publications attributed to Wikileaks from the September 9 to 12 are a case in point, at least as far as their reference to me is concerned.

The first one: ‘Why Museveni made Janet minister’ alleges that I was made minister in order to broaden my access to public resources and perks.

I must deduce from this statement that the writer wants his readers to believe that I am now free to steal and misuse public funds meant for my ministry! At the same time, the report states that I was given the Karamoja docket because it would present me with ‘intractable problems in order to weaken my growing popularity’.

Why does this sound to me like a contradiction in terms? If in making me a minister, the appointing authority wanted to indulge me, then why would he in the same breath give me an impossible task that would make me unpopular? And, if all I am good at is stealing public funds, then why would I be popular with the same public?

The second Daily Monitor report alleges that I am the initiator of the Gay Bill. This ludicrous claim is not only an insult to Hon. Bahati, the originator of the bill but also to me, because it implies that I need to hide behind someone else in order to introduce a bill in parliament.

I believe Ugandans know by now that I have always had the courage to stand by my convictions - even when they go against the grain of prevailing popular opinion. I think I have adequately demonstrated, in my work over the years, that I can boldly stand by what I believe in without fear or favour.

The third report, published in the Daily Monitor on the September 12, concerns Justice Mwondha’s performance as IGG. This reports that Mr. Browning said Museveni and Janet could face perjury.

I have completely failed to see how I could possibly be involved in Mwondha’s saga, and why anyone would want to charge me with perjury and corruption in this matter. It only goes to show that some media houses, (if this is their report) habitually use some names just to give colour to their reports, never mind the truth. What happened to professional ethics and simple morality?

However, if it is true that this time the Daily Monitor is merely quoting leaders who report these lies, then it is unfortunate, because it means that the blind are leading the blind and the end is sure to be a ditch.

My hope is that Ugandan readers who have known the President and I all these years will exercise their wise judgment and refuse to accept this hate campaign against us as gospel truth. Our determination to serve the people of Uganda is known. People can remember how I used to raise all the money for my work with orphans, rural women, the youth, maternal health, etc, legitimately, long before I was called to serve in active politics. Why would I now begin to steal funds meant for Karamoja?

Unfortunately for all these detractors, we are not looking for cheap popularity, because not everything right is popular. My service to the Karimojong is, first and foremost, service to God and, secondly, service to fellow man. The Karimojong know this and God knows it, and that is enough for me.

Of late, I have noticed that the media is trying to lead the readers to believe that there are precious stones in Karamoja, and all sorts of lucrative prospects there, implying that this is why I was given the docket of Karamoja.

It may be true that Karamoja has a bigger potential than we are yet to know and I pray that that is so, but that is not why I was sent there. The truth is that the same reason that first took me the Luwero Triangle, and the reason that caused me to champion the HIV/AIDS cause, is the same reason that I believe the President trusted that I could be of service to Karamoja, a region that still holds an especially vulnerable position today in Uganda.

There needs to be a rising of the standard in the area of media reporting. Well researched analysis and verified facts need to replace witch-hunting and sensationalism. Surely, the media owes it to the Ugandan citizens on whose readership their success is built?
First Lady and Minister for Karamoja

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