Uganda editors sacked over polls reporting

Two employees of Uganda’s national broadcaster have been sacked just days after international election observers gave a negative review of the station’s coverage of the just concluded general elections.

The  Daily Monitor  reported on Wednesday that the two men, working for Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) were not offered any reason for their dismissal.

The two, Mr Charles Musana, who was acting Station Manager and Mr Andrew Mugyema, the Chief News Editor were shown the boot two days after the February presidential and parliamentary 18 elections by the company’s Managing Director Edward Musinguzi Mugasa.
The former employees, according to  Monitor , said they were not sure whether their stewardship at the station during the hotly contested election had anything to do with the sackings.

Mr Musana admitted that while the station “started coverage of this election well”, along the way came “instructions and we followed them,”—slapping a ban on stories about opposition candidates to be played on the air.

“Everything we did was the best we could in the circumstances,” Mr Mugyema told  Daily Monito

UBC stands accused of failing to provide equitable coverage for candidates and parties, in violation of provisions of Article 67 of the Constitution which state that all presidential candidates shall be given equal time and space on the state owned media to present their programs to the people.

In its preliminary report, the European Union Election Observation Mission noted that coverage of President Museveni and the NRM by UBC Television amounted to nearly fourteen hours, compared with just 56minutes devoted to the President’s main challenger, Dr Kizza Besigye, of the Interparty Cooperation.

The Station is also embroiled in a row with the IPC for failing to air Dr Besigye’s paid television advertisements in millions of shillings.

News of the dismissals startled many at UBC as a glum mood filled the station’s newsroom. There was talk from reporters who begged anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, that Mr Mugyema had been “sacrificed for following orders.”
The sources told of how, a few weeks into the campaigns, sometime in December, there was a directive from the Corporation’s M.D Mr Mugasa not to air any stories about the opposition. At one point, the Electoral Commission summoned UBC officials following complaints of biased coverage by the opposition and ordered equal time on the air for all candidates, the sources revealed.

“The M.D slapped a ban on coverage of the opposition towards the end of December,” said the source. “When the E.C complained, we were told to cover the opposition but mainly the small opposition parties and not the big crowds.”

It also emerged that the Corporation’s human resource manager Jackson Komakech was not aware of the sackings. Mr Kamakech declined to comment when contacted yesterday, referring this newspaper to the Corporation’s publicist Ms Jane Kasumba. Ms Kasumba said while she had been unable to reach “the concerned managers”, every employee at the corporation “is given targets which we must all fulfill.”

Source:   Daily Monitor

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