“Media houses should open up on their political affiliations to help us know which side they support. We need a media that is partisan but objective and fair,”
By Lucy Kiiza and Betty Amamukirori
KAMPALA - Government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo has challenged media houses to come out clean on their political affiliations instead of pretending to be neutral when their works say otherwise.
"Media houses should open up on their political affiliations to help us know which side they support. We need a media that is partisan but objective and fair," he said.
He said that this will help the public know which media house supports which political party instead of speculating. He was speaking at a half-day dialogue on the regulation of Media freedom at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI).
Opondo gave an example of the People Power spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi, who was working for a media house that claimed to be neutral and independent from political influence but its employee surprised everyone when he joined an opposition pressure group.
"Such surprises take us back. Let us know your political stand and be able to prepare well," he said.
He also revealed that media practitioners have become so selfish that they are now blind to the importance of a free press.
He noted that in the recent meeting between President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and media owners, the discussions were dominated by commercial interests and issues of a free press were relegated to the tail end.
"The business interest has taken over the media," he said and explained that it's because of this that media houses have never questioned decisions by bodies such as UCC to suspend and fire their own staff.
Opondo warned against unhealthy competition between media houses, saying this undermines them and creates cracks that are manipulated by the powerful
"It is sad to see when a media house is closed and the other media houses take it as an opportunity to jubilate instead of firmly supporting each other. You should stop competing with one another but instead work together to uplift yourselves," he said.
The dialogue was attended by media academics and practitioners, communications experts, journalists, and government officials.
Dr. Adolf Mbaine, a lecturer at the Makerere University Department of Journalism and Communication, called for the need to develop media-friendly policies and laws and the amendment of existing laws such as the Press and Journalists Act and the Public Order Management Act.
He said these Acts curtail the freedom of the media and expression.
He also warned government against the repulsive enactment of laws before having policy frameworks in place, saying the government should desist from being reactionary in formulating laws and start doing research and engaging media practitioners to come up with issues to put in the law.
Dr. James Nkata, the Director General Uganda Management Institute emphasised on the need for press freedom. He argued that gagging the media and denying them access to information gives a leeway for fake news to spread.
"Human beings by nature survive on the information. When they are denied information, they fill the gap with their own created information and justify it to the public," he said.