The African Centre for Media Excellence has developed a programme with the Revenue Watch Institute and the Thomson Reuters Foundation to teach journalists how to report effectively on oil and gas, an industry that could bring huge benefits to Uganda if managed properly.
Revenue Watch monitors public finances, advises governments on policy choices and campaigns against corruption in mining and the oil and gas industry. The training programme is its first that directly targets journalists, and their role in promoting public debate on the sector.
Six Ugandan journalists travelled to Ghana in January 2011 and attended a training workshop, or Course A, that launched the programme. That workshop offered Ghanaian and Ugandan journalists insights into the industry, and opportunities for first-hand reporting in a country that had just begun oil production.
ACME brought the six back together on May 7, 2011 at its training centre in Kampala for a second workshop – Course B – with the focus on Uganda. This workshop was an opportunity to investigate aspects of the industry that will have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary Ugandans.
The six participants, who include television, radio and print journalists, are producing stories as part of the programme. They are the first of a series of journalists that ACME will train over three years as part of the Revenue Watch programme.
This is a unique training programme in the sense that participants are not left to their own devices after a few days of training. Here we team the participants up with mentors for continuous engagement over several months. The mentors do comment – via telephone, face-to-face and online interaction – on the stories after they have run, with a view to making later reporting better. The participants can also apply for reporting grants.
The current programme is a pilot and runs until the end of 2012. If successful, it could be expanded to other countries.
Part VII of the Public Finance Bill, 2012, which was tabled before Parliament on May 9, spells out procedures for petroleum revenue management.
CSO's submission to Parliament on Petroleum Bills (April 2012)
Memorandum by civil society organisations to the committee of natural resources reviewing the petroleum bills
Memorandum presented by total E&P Uganda to the parliamentary Ad-hoc committee on regularization of the oil sector on friday, 13th April 2012
A report by Global Witness on two new petroleum bills introduced in Parliament.
Status of licensing in the Albertine Graben of Uganda as of January 2012
The New York City wrote to Total which recently acquired a stake in Uganda’s oil asking it to comply with freedom of information laws and release agreements signed between the company and government.
A presentation by Mr Godber Tumushabe, policy analyst and Executive Director for Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment.
On October 11, 2011, the Uganda Parliament passed a number or resolutions in a bid to regularize the Oil Sector. This was after two days of heated debates in the house over various aspects concerning the oil industry especially oil contracts and transactions signed between Uganda and oil companies.
British oil firm, Tullow, was accused of paying bribes worth $100m (Shs280b) to expert bureaucrats, including three Ugandan ministers between June 1 and July 16.Tullow Oil is the lead player in Uganda’s nascent oil sector.
Is Uganda Ready for Oil Revenues? A briefing paper by Francis Tumusiime
Overcoming the resource curse requires laws and institutions that foster transparency and accountability. Most of the required institutions provided for in the Oil and Gas Policy of 2008 are not yet in place, and whether the proposed institutions will function effectively and independently is not clear. Despite revenue transparency being touted as a key policy objective, to date no bill for the management of oil revenues is in place, and the law does not guarantee access to information for effective participation. Moreover, as oil extraction is new to Uganda, insufficient capacity exists among key stakeholders generally. It is hoped the recommendations made in this briefing will go some way in improving the current state of affairs.
Avoiding the Resource Curse: Spotlight on Oil in UgandaThe working paper analyse how the Will new rules from the US Securities and Exchange Commission requiring companies that file annual reports with the U.S Securities Exchange Commission to disclose the payments made to host government for the extraction of oil, natural gas and minerals, could help shore up transparency around investment in Uganda’s extractives industry and avoid failures in governance that have exposed other countries to the "resource curse".
Donor Engagement in Uganda’s Oil and Gas Sector: An Agenda for ActionA report by Global Witness, a UK-based non-governmental organisation which investigates the role of natural resources in funding conflict and corruption around the world.
The report discusses Uganda's oil sector within the context of the wider governance environment and highlights this as a key determinant to the outcome of the country's oil windfall. It also highlights the role of international donors to Uganda vis-a-vis the oil and gas finds.
Contracts Curse: Uganda’s oil agreements place profit before peopleAn analysis by PLATFORM and in partnership with the Civil Society Coalition on Oil (CSCO) in Uganda.
This report aims to provide an in-depth analysis of Uganda’s Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) covering oil development in the Albertine Graben. PLATFORM has investigated the contract terms relating to economics, sovereignty, human rights and the environment. We examine relevant paragraphs in the Ugandan context, in relation to current oil company practice in Uganda and in comparison to contract terms in other countries. It explores the balance of rights and responsibilities between the Ugandan government and the oil companies, and who carries which risks.
In Uganda, it is estimated that once oil reaches peak production, government revenues will double. Setting up an effective regime to shine light on payments and revenue flows is essential to restrain corruption. The United States strongly supports the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and encourages Uganda to commit to its principles...
To promote, through the collective action of members, the growth and development of Uganda's mining and petroleum industry, for the benefit of all Ugandans and investors.
A new website that captures the conversation on the subject in Uganda
An Act to establish the Uganda Oil Board and to provide for its functions, powers and other matters connected therewith.
Ghana: Reporting on Oil and Gas
The ninth Parliament debated Uganda's oil sector on October 10 and 11, 2011 and passed a number or resolutions in a bid to regularize the sector.
The heated debates covered various aspects concerning the oil industry especially oil contracts and transactions signed between Uganda and oil companies.
Below are the transcripts from the debate, compiled by Parliament in the Hansard.
Dr Peter Mwesige's take on the coverage of the oil debate
When RWI created its media training program for Ghanaian and Ugandan journalists in 2009, the idea of increasing the quantity and quality of oil and mining coverage in those countries was only the starting point.
We also hoped that, at the end of the three-year pilot phase, the trainings would have generated the momentum to expand. In collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation, African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) and PenPlusBytes, RWI set an ambitious goal of developing "mechanisms for media capacity building on extractive governance that are scalable and sustainable" in Ghana and Uganda as trial countries but also "positioned for use in others."
When Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) went shopping for a media organization to support its South Sudan program, ACME, RWI'S Ugandan partner, was a natural choice. In December 2011 NPA commissioned ACME to train the journalists of Africa's newest nation in covering oil. The need for such knowledge was clear: According to the World Bank, 2011 oil revenues provided 98 percent of independent South Sudan's first-ever national budget of $2.3 billion.
By 2011, halfway into the RWI media training pilot, ACME reported significant improvements in the work of its journalist participants, and an interest adapting this training to a new context.
The Revenue Watch Institute is in the second year of an extensive media capacity building program for suitably qualified journalists in GHANA and UGANDA. The program is designed for journalists with a demonstrated interest in reporting about the extractive sectors of oil, gas, and minerals.
The Training Program
The training program consists of two residential courses. The first course will be conducted in Accra, Ghana, on October 17-26, 2011 and will bring together participants from both Uganda and Ghana. The second course will consist of two separate sessions: one for Ghanaians on January 16-25, 2012 in Accra and one for Ugandans on January 30-February 8, 2012 in Kampala. Successful candidates will be sponsored and must commit to completing all aspects of the program.
The full course will run over a period of about seven months comprising a series of learning activities and professional support to trainees individually and collectively. There are approximately 14 places available this year – seven for Ghanaians and seven for Ugandans.
The Revenue Watch Institute
The Revenue Watch Institute is a non-profit policy institute and grant-making organization that promotes accountable and effective management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good. Good governance of oil, gas, and mineral revenues requires an informed, responsive and dynamic media environment to provide the oversight of the process and help inform the public about the issues. This is therefore the impetus behind our training program.
The training will be delivered through a partnership of Penplusbytes in Ghana (www.reportingoilandgas.org), the African Centre for Media Excellence in Uganda (www.acme-ug.org), and Thomson Reuters Foundation (www.trust.org).
The training methodology will be a mixture of seminars, interviews, roundtable discussions, regular mentoring, field trips, workshops, and debates with technical experts and senior journalists from Ghana and Uganda. The training approaches will be interactive and practical with a focus on fundamental concepts, issues, and knowledge about the extractives. The training will also involve critiquing and supporting the work of the trainees as they produce stories and explore the issues related to reporting on extractives.
In addition there will be travel bursaries for motivated reporters to enable them to build on their professional development in this field and an annual prize for the best reporting on extractives.
As this is a competitive process, places will be offered to reporters who make the strongest applications when addressing and providing the information listed below:
- THREE samples of stories (could be MP3, website link, scan) on extractive industries that you have published or broadcast (clearly showing your byline where applicable and date of publication).
- A short biography of no more than 200 words.
- A brief statement of no more than 200 words explaining how deepening your journalistic understanding of extractives will contribute to your professional development and that of your media house.
- A pitch for a story on extractives you would like to pursue: Who would you interview and why? What would be the angle and focus of the story? How does the story relate to your audience?
- Contact information for your editor or editorial supervisor – telephone and email.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: AUGUST 15, 2011
HOW TO APPLY:
On Monday, ACME hosted Ms Anya Schiffrin, co-author of an influential journalist’s guidebook on covering oil, who told Ugandan journalists that reporting about the extractive sector “is hard work and takes a big commitment”.
Ms Schiffrin, who is the director of the International Media, Advocacy and Communications specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York, said reporters must develop sources, learn from other countries, keep going back to the same topics, ideas and places and constantly check on the latest developments.
They must also endeavour to become experts on the subjects they cover. “The only person who can make you an expert is you. As you develop your expertise, you will become the go-to person,” she said.
A former business journalist, Ms Schiffrin told the journalists that perhaps even more than their western colleagues, they have a much bigger responsibility to the public while reporting.
“With so many channels underdeveloped or blocked in developing countries, it is all the more important that the channels between government and the citizens, between markets and consumers, between individuals in one part of the country and those in another work well to disseminate information which is accurate and unbiased,” she said.
Ms. Schiffrin, who is also director of journalism training programs at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, an international network of economists based at Columbia, and founder of journalismtraining.net, advised journalists to inform themselves about the subjects they cover so that they are able to interpret the information for their audiences correctly.
She gave tips on several good journalism practices and shared some major topics that reporters covering oil should focus on, including contracts, mechanisms for accountability, environmental impact, basics of the oil market, job creation, stabilisation funds, development and alternatives to extractives.
Ms Schiffrin emphasised the need for multiple sources in reporting. According to studies of American newspapers in 2005 and 2006 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, stories in national newspapers had three or more sources 90% of the time (2006) and four or more sources 48% of the time, she said.
By contrast, a 2009 survey on coverage of oil and extractives by African papers in Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria, showed that only 21.45% of the African newspaper articles had three or more unique sources. Furthermore, nearly 50% of articles had one unique source or less and the most prevalent types of sources were those from government or business.
The study also found that Ugandan newspaper coverage had a significantly higher extractive industry bias.
Having more sources, Schiffrin said, helps a journalist to avoid picking up biases.
“It’s not the number of sources in each article but the ratio of one type of source to another, for example how many anti-oil activists are quoted compared to an oil executive in the same story or across several stories on the same subject,” she explained.
She added that reporters often turn to the nearest available source and sometimes report their views uncritically. “It is too easy to take the IMF or government press release and repeat it verbatim,” she said.
Schiffrin said she would speak to at least 25 sources at one time, cultivating them to simultaneously develop multiple story ideas.
The same study on the three African countries also found journalists struggled with the addition of context to extractive-based stories. However, Ugandan newspapers performed much better with contextualisation of stories than those in Ghana and Nigeria, Schiffrin noted.
The Revenue Watch Institute-ACME training project on strengthening media coverage of the extractive sectors in Ghana and Uganda was based on this research. Although no study has extensively reviewed coverage since then, recent independent evaluations of the RWI-ACME project show marked improvement.
Ms Schiffrin advised journalists to create alliances with foreign media both for the purpose of getting access to information from bigger corporations and for help in ‘breaking’ stories that may create problems for journalists in media-repressed countries.
Besides Covering Oil: A Reporter's Guide to Energy and Development, Schiffrin has authored several other books, including Covering Labor: A Reporter's Guide to Worker's Rights in a Global Economy, Business and Economic Reporting: Covering Companies, Financial Markets and the Broader Economy, and Bad News: How America's Business Press Missed the Story of the Century.
Schiffrin is married to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who was in the country to deliver the main address at the Joseph Mubiru Memorial Lecture.
An active, knowledgeable press plays a critical role in helping the public and parliaments to engage in governance issues, enabling them to hold government and companies more accountable.
However, in many resource-rich countries, journalists lack the information and skills to report and write in depth on oil, gas and mining. Recognizing these challenges, RWI has conducted training programs in Ghana and Uganda to promote effective, consistent media oversight of oil, gas and mining. The programs seek to increase the number and quality of print, television and radio stories, and develop training tools that are self-sustaining in these countries and replicable in others.
Meet Uganda's third class of RWI's media training program.
Edward is a reporter with The Observer, a triweekly English newspaper in Kampala. He has written numerous stories and feature articles on a wide range of topics including Uganda’s oil and gas sector, the environment, climate change, politics and business. Before joining The Observer in 2009, Edward worked with Kagadi Kibaale Community Radio in Kibaale district, western Uganda, as a reporter. He also worked with Spice FM in Hoima district, western Uganda, where he headed theeditorial section for 1 1/2 years and concurrently freelanced for Uganda Radio Network. In 2009, during a climate change fellowship with Panos Eastern Africa, he did several radio features on the environment and climate change. Edward looks forward to deepening his understanding of oil and gas, a sector he believes will bring about a positive transformation in people’s lives.
Francis is an assistant bureau chief for Daily Monitor in Fort Portal, western Uganda, and is also the newspaper’s correspondent in Bunyoro, the oil region in the west of the country. He has devoted his journalism career to gaining a deeper understanding of the political, social and economic ramifications of the discovery of oil in Bunyoro. In 2008 he won the western Uganda investigative journalist of the year award from the Eastern Africa Media Institute and Makerere University. He is also chairman of the Midwestern Regional Anti-Corruption Journalists Association.
Haggai is a reporter with The Independent, a weekly magazine published in Kampala. He previously worked as The Independent's online editor for 1 ½ years, and also worked for The Observer. Haggai reports on governance issues and has covered oil and gas for the last two years. He extensively covered the standoff between members of parliament and the government over access to oil contracts. He also live-tweeted the proceedings from parliament. His recent live-tweeting of President Yoweri Museveni's speech to parliament on oil garnered Haggai a large Twitter following.
Hope has been practicing journalism for eight years. She is New Vision's Fort Portal-based bureau chief for western Uganda. She is also a science reporter with articles featured regularly around the world. Although Hope’s initial interests were health, agriculture and the environment, Uganda’s discovery of oil motivated her to pay attention to the energy sector. She is looking at the RWI training to deepen her understanding of the industry. She believes the training will further develop her ability to report accurately and objectively and will alert her to the risks and opportunities that come with the discovery of oil.
Joe is the northern-based bureau chief for Uganda Radio Network where he reports about health, education, agriculture, politics and business. He has done extensive reporting on transitional justice issues because he lives and works in a region that is recovering from decades of conflict and war. Joe began his journalism career in 2001 and has worked as a news reporter, anchor, editor and producer. He is passionate about journalism and mentoring future journalists. He is also a founder member of Media for Nature, an association of Ugandan journalists committed to reporting about climate change. He is thrilled to undertake training in extractives and looks forward to covering the story of oil and gas in northern Uganda, where it doesn’t get as much attention as in the western part of the country.
Mark Keith Muhumuza
Mark has been with The CEO Magazine, a monthly business publication, since June 2011. He previously worked for three years with the East African Business Week where he did regular updates on agribusiness, tourism, airlines, banking and telecoms. He published his first story on oil, “U.S. Expert Says Oil Agreements Good,” in March 2009. At the time, Mark knew very little about the sector but that was the beginning of a learning process. Since moving to The CEO Magazine, he has improved his business writing skills and written more analytical stories.
Patience is the assistant producer of Uganda Radio Network’s National Perspective Magazine. She is also its multimedia coordinator responsible for content on the agency’s website, blogging and managing URN’s social networks pages. Patience became a features contributor at New Vision in her first year at Makerere University. She later became part of the features team at the Daily Monitor, where she covered social services, commerce, science and technology, natural resources as well as arts and culture. Her journalism experience spans print, TV and online publishing.
Ronald is an environmental journalist and contributing editor at The Green Chronicles, a monthly magazine he cofounded in 2009. He started out as an intern at The Sunrise, a weekly newspaper, before joining EnviroConserve AFRICA, an environmental and engineering magazine based in Kampala, with a focus on East Africa. Ronald has keen interest in the oil and gas sector and has written about its far-reaching consequences for both the economy and the environment. He hopes to make the most of the RWI training in order to improve his knowledge of the extractive industry and to advance his journalism career.
After two dramatic days of debate on Uganda’s oil sector, Parliament passed several resolutions before going back on recess.
The media have by and large reported the resolutions accurately. However, in a couple of cases, some journalists have got it all wrong. I suspect this is because they didn’t pay attention to the amendments that were moved on some of the original resolutions.
For instance, Daily Monitor has twice reported, on Wednesday and today, that Parliament resolved that the government “withholds consent to a pending transaction between Tullow Oil, Total and CNOOC before capital gains tax assessed by the tax body Uganda Revenue authority payable by Tullow are paid in advance and a report to that effect be made to Parliament.”
However, Resolution 10 was in fact amended after some members argued that the last part –on capital gains tax was redundant. The argument was how do you talk about capital gains tax assessed when the transaction has been halted?
The amended resolution therefore read: "Government withholds consent to the [pending] transaction between Tullow Oil Uganda Limited and CNOOC and Total until all relevant laws are put in place."
Today, The New Vision reports, in the front page story “Tullow reacts to bribery allegations”, that MPs “called for a commission of enquiry headed by a judge of the Supreme Court to investigate claims and allegations of bribery and corruption.”
Again, this was the resolution in the original motion. It was amended by Wakiso Woman MP Rosemary Sseninde who moved that Parliament should set up an ad hoc committee instead. It was her amendment also that saw the inclusion of part b to this resolution—calling for the ministers and government officials named in the bribery and corruption allegations to step aside until investigations are completed.
I also noticed some inaccuracies in the way President Museveni’s press conference remarks about Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) were reported by some media outlets. The correct position is that under the PSA route, if a company that has been granted exploration rights fails to find oil, it suffers the loss alone. If, on the other hand, the company makes a viable oil find in a given Exploration Area [EA), and goes ahead with production, the revenue from that would be shared with the government according to an agreed formula. This revenue would exclude so-called recoverable costs or “cost recovery oil”. This is the money that the company would have invested in the exploration, development, and production of the oil. It also includes operating costs. It should be noted that according to the current PSAs in Uganda, recoverable costs will also be applied to exploration of wells that turned out to be dry (without oil). So if Tullow Oil drills 10 wells in Exploration Area Z and finds oil in only eight wells, it will still recover the costs for drilling in the two dry wells. While civil society organisations find this arrangement questionable, senior ministry of energy officials argue that Uganda agreed to such terms as an incentive to attract investors in the oil sector at a time when many big international players had stayed away from us.
Finally the media could do some more work on the providing depth, especially explanation.
For instance, it would also have been great if from the very beginning the media made it clear what parliamentary resolutions mean. Are they binding? What are the risks for the Executive if they ignore the resolutions? Can parliamentary resolutions annul agreements that have been signed already?
In the same breath, there has been a lot of excitement about Ministers Sam Kutesa, John Nasasira and Mwesigwa Rukutana “stepping aside”. But what does stepping aside mean? Is it the same thing as resignation (I don’t think so), as some media outlets have reported? Is it the same thing as quitting (again, I don’t think so)? Does it mean they continue holding their portfolios, but simply don’t report to office or attend cabinet meetings (my addition) as Rukutana suggested in an interview with Daily Monitor? Do they continue to be paid and to enjoy all the perks associated with their offices? Can the president appoint other ministers to replace them? Of course common sense would suggest that perhaps the President can’t replace the ministers before the court case is disposed of, but it doesn’t hurt to explain these issues to audiences. We could also draw from recent experiences in neighbouring Kenya where ministers who had stepped aside, in the wake of abuse of office allegations, went back to Cabinet after they were cleared by investigations.
OIL DEBATE VERBATIM
About the Author: Dr. Peter Mwesige is Executive Director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME). He has chaired the department of journalism and communication at Makerere University and is a former Executive Editor of the Monitor in Kampala.
A status report on Uganda's oil refinery construction by Mr Robert Kasande, the project manager.
The government plans to develop a 60,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) refinery that will later be expanded to 120,000 BOPD and 180,000 BOPD.
According to the report, the strategy is to develop a 60,000 BOPD refinery in a modular manner starting with 20,000 BOPD delivered within 3 years.
Renowned journalist and media entrepreneur Andrew Mwenda has been under fire from several Ugandan journalists for his role in the investigation of documents that were tabled in Parliament last week to support allegations that Ugandan ministers received bribes from an oil company.
Many journalists, ever suspicious of collaborating with government officials on sensitive stories, have accused Mwenda of selling his soul or going to bed with the enemy. Others have not gone so far, but they have said they found his actions suspect.
Before the latest issue of The Independent (“Oil bribery scandal: The story behind the news”), which details the paper’s attempts to get to the bottom of the allegations, hit the stands, the story on Facebook and other social media was that Mwenda had ran to the government (the President and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa, who is named in the middle of the scandal) with the documents instead of conducting his own independent investigations.
In an interview with ACME on October 13th, days after embattled minister Kutesa mentioned in Parliament that he had first heard about the documents allegedly linking him to the bribery scandal from Mwenda, the journalist defended his actions.
“It would have been wrong to publish the documents without any attempts to establish their authenticity,” he said. “I know that sources have their own motivations for leaking documents to journalists or giving them tips and I always keep that in mind when I am working on any investigative story. I have to verify the claims made by my sources.”
Mwenda said he had received the documents, which suggest that Tullow Oil had made payments to ministers Kutesa and Hillary Onek, last year. The documents detailed foreign bank accounts and payments allegedly made to the two ministers.
“I tried on my own to authenticate the claims,” Mwenda said.
He hit a dead end. He said he had talked to the British Metropolitan Police and to the head of CID in Dubai through a highly placed source with access to him.
“I also went to Global Witness, a big civil society group with the resources to investigate corruption in the oil sector, and asked them for help,” he added.
Mwenda said he had also asked a major regional media group to partner with the Independent on doing the investigation “because they have more resources than us”.
He said he took all these steps because “I was also aware that there were too much rivalry and competition in the oil sector. Maybe somebody could be diverting attention from the actual crime.”
Mwenda said after hitting a dead end on all those fronts he decided to take the documents to President Museveni.
He said Museveni wrote on the documents, “Kayihura investigate working with Mwenda”. Kale Kayihura is the Inspector General of Police.
Is it okay for a journalist to go to the President with leaked documents that could implicate his own ministers or even himself in corruption?
“It’s okay,” Mwenda said. “I knew if he doesn’t do anything and I can prove some percentage of the information is true, I would say we gave him the documents. I told him ‘They are saying these people are making money for your campaigns. That you are involved. I went to him thinking that if he did not order an investigation I would write the story.”
Mwenda added that by going to the President, he was also “holding him to account”.
That Mwenda has access to State House has been in the public domain for a while now.
Mwenda said he had in the past similarly gone to security chiefs and shown them what The Independent was going to publish in case he felt the sensitivity of the story demanded such cross-checking. “I ask them to demonstrate the security risk,” he said. “If they can’t then we shall publish.”
Any investigative journalist will tell you it is a great asset to have friends in high places, as Mwenda clearly has.
The question is to what end you put these highly placed sources. Will it help you get the story or kill it?
Some journalists have suggested on Facebook that the documents were enough cover for a newspaper to publish the story.
“We can’t make judgements on whims and emotions,” he said.
He said The Independent’s editorial policy was close to Collin Powell’s principle on going to war.
“If you have a vital decision to make, what guides you? Ours is the 50% - 70% principle,” he said. “If you have information that confirms 50% of the story is true, you can publish if there is overriding public need to know. If you have information that confirms 70% of the story is true, you use common sense, again depending on the overriding public need to know. You may never get 100% confirmation that the story is true.”
Under this logic, Mwenda said, different aspects of the claims by those who had leaked the documents could have been given a percentage weight.
For example, do the accounts exist? -- (15%). Are the names of the account holders those mentioned in the report? -- (15%). Was money transferred to those accounts? -- (15%). Was it transferred by the said company? -- (15%). And so on...
Mwenda said had The Independent confirmed the first three questions, for instance, they would have published the story.
“Our business [journalism] is based on four important and self-reinforcing principles,” he said. “These are truthfulness, accuracy, fairness, and balance.”
He added: “For any institution to work and perform its functions [with credibility], it must have some values. To do our work in promoting accountability we must be guided by those principles I have mentioned. We must to establish the authenticity of the information we get.”
Mwenda is spot on here. However, his detractors will question whether going to Museveni was the best way of establishing the authenticity of the bribery claims.
It assumes that the President is above board and that he will in fact pursue all corruption allegations against his ministers.
This is a judgement call. And it is a very big one.
The other problem of course is that The Independent did not publish the findings of Kayihura’s investigation until after the matter came before Parliament (As Minister Kutesa was telling Parliament that investigations had shown the documents were forged, Vice President Edward Ssekandi interrupted him and said the President had told him he had ordered an investigation which had concluded the documents were fake).
Mwenda said about a month ago Kayihura had given him letters from Malta and the Metropolitan Police in UK which suggested that documents were forged and the accounts did not exist.
So why did he not publish the story then?
“My judgement was there was no story,” he said. “The fact that there was no crime means there is no story. I can’t write a denial story where was no positive claim of a crime in the public domain.”
Mwenda said he could have done a story about the police investigation, as it was still going on. “But I had confirmed separately from Dubai and London that the documents were fake; the accounts did not exist,” he said. “It would have been malicious.”
But surely the forgery finding also raises another story. Who forged the documents? Who stood to benefit from the forgery? How do all these claims and counter claims fit into the jigsaw of Uganda’s nascent oil sector?
In other words, what seemed the end of one story was actually the beginning of another—possibly a bigger one.
Correction: We had previously written that Andrew Mwenda had given the oil documents to Platform London but he has since clarified that it was Global Witness.
About the Author: Dr. Peter Mwesige is Executive Director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME). He has chaired the department of journalism and communication at Makerere University and is a former Executive Editor of the Monitor in Kampala.