By John Unzima
Political leaders in Ma’di sub-region particularly in Adjumani district have of recent polarized the media fraternity by behaving in a manner that is discriminatory, unhealthy for democracy and for a free press.
Firstly, whereas it is true that media personalities have right to belong to school of thought that befits their individual conviction informed by one’s own world view, journalists also ought to be reminded that it is absolutely wrong to entirely side with the powerful.
It is instead more rational for media to work towards attaining the broader societal goal not individual aggrandizement of characters in power.
Journalists should also in my view desist from fanaticism, subscribing entirely to a particular group. This is bad because it encourages ‘Media zealotry.’
Politicians should be aware that the media educates, informs, acts as a watchdog to society and play a vital role in democracy. While politics is mainly for those who would like to wield their power on the oppressed and the poor. And so, the media exists to check on the injustices meted by the powerful on the powerless.
This makes media and politics different partners. Therefore the media in all circumstances must stand up and resist attempts of people to use it as a mouth piece of the advantaged and profit merchants.
For example, I stand proud on the New Year’s Eve when President Museveni scoffed hell of criticisms on the Media in Uganda and Vision Group in particular and its CEO Mr Kabushenga Robert.
Museveni in a lengthy criticism said Kabushenga using state money has been publishing trivial stories sponsored by government opponents. But Museveni ought to know the ground rules of exercising editorial independence and serving the voice of the voiceless despite government funding the Vision Group.
The truth is Kabushenga as a Journalist and with all intrinsic journalistic instincts in him regardless of who funds his work must remain a journalist. This I think Mr Museveni with all the resource at his disposal fails to understand, anyway this is a subject of discussion for another day.
Back to the gist of matter the polarization of media by elements in local government of Adjumani, leaders should know that it is needless to create useless fault lines among media houses.
I noted with grave concern that invitation for press briefing by local government leaders is based on which reporter subscribes to which view. Recent trends in the district are not healthy for media development as politicians make friends with journalists whom they think are ‘media friendly.’ This action should be condemned for creating discrimination and causing hatred in the media fraternity.
By so doing, these leaders disadvantage themselves from accessing platforms on the ‘perceived enemy media outlets’ and most horribly deny information to the people they serve who forms the bulk of their electorate. The leaders should know that once a media house is deprived off information, the electorates also miss out. Therefore, it does not make sense to polarize the media fraternity with such discriminatory and backward way of looking at issues.
Therefore, at all times we must accept that media is not meant to serve individual aspirations but instead should serve the inherent public good.
Journalists and Media practitioners who have failed to distinguish between personal friendship from professionalism must reorient themselves immediately. This will go a long way in ensuring press freedom, building their career and polish on their professionalism.
Happy new year