By Michael Woira
I have for some time been with the media and the experience that I have with it is enough for me to at least utter a word or two about them and how they operate, in this I don’t mean the ugly side of it but the other good side of it in developing our country and being the mouth piece of the voiceless.
The media fraternity is going on with its world freedom day celebrations and this day is celebrated world over to commemorate the freedoms of journalist and their achievements towards development in their areas of operation, one writer said that; Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air. (Henry Anatole Grunwald).
In this article I will be more of a journalist than a layman because it is the profession that is almost similar to what I studied at school. To begin with, as members of the media have done a lot for the country in sensitizing the masses in different aspects and promoting government programs, giving reliable information to the audience and most important of all educating the citizens of this nation on various issues.
While at school, my lecturers taught me to base on some major basics while in the media industry and these include accuracy, fairness and mutual respect for other agencies like security forces and others. Neither accuracy nor fairness must ever be sacrificed for speed. Double-check facts, figures, names, dates and spellings. Watch for typographical errors. And make sure there is enough context in the story to ensure balance and fairness, including disclosure of important information that is not clear or not known.
I have observed some media houses not abiding by it because of the false stories that they at times publish or air out especially the online news sites whose aim is to break the story before even clear facts are gathered.
Independent voices are also important in that we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors or the audience any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute conflict of interest and this can create trust in our stories that we avail to the audiences. On Humanity, Journalists should do no harm while doing their work. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.
It’s on the above point of humanity that some of our fellow journalists have gone the wrong way because they have stopped abiding by the principals of journalism and resorted to publishing and airing out stories for money or else stories of their interest.
Uganda from the past has faced such problems because media houses have left purposeful information and resorted to covering demonstrations, strikes, nudity and spending most of their time moving with the opposition strategists thus encouraging them to popularize themselves by acting unruly and this is because they always expect to go back at their stations with some money in their wallets for being good activists, but is this the right thing to be done? Of course the answer is NO but many journalists have nowadays resorted to asking for bribes wherever they go to cover stories on many instances.
I have attended very many events where by the event ends and some journalists remain behind asking for the rightful person to sort them out (give them some money) and personally I have always observed this as a very bad act in the media profession.
For the events I have observed with my naked eyes being showed on television stations and newspapers, I sometimes see no importance when a 25 minutes’ video of a nude woman uttering obscene words, a defiant politician exchanging blows with the police is given much attention.
We should focus on issues that unite Ugandans other than promoting divisions and immorality in the community for the betterment of the next generation and value of our media profession.
Happy world press freedom celebrations
MICHAEL WOIRA, PAN AFRICANIST