Media bow to officialdom’s threats, abdicate their responsibility

Call me a serial whiner, or whatever, but I must say following the release of Kampala’s mayoral election results on Monday night was painful.

Clearly, the Ugandan media gave in to the Electoral Commission’s and government’s threats about the announcement of election results.

The electoral body and the government had insisted before last’s month’s presidential and parliamentary elections that only the EC was mandated to announce the final results. No problem with that. But many of us argued that there was nothing wrong with the media announcing provisional results as long as they provided sufficient context (e.g. the results are not final; only so many polling stations, constituencies, or whatever units have so far reported; results from Candidate X’s stronghold are not yet in, etc).

On Monday I watched NTV news at 9.00 for 30 minutes and there was not a single mention of a result from any polling station. I changed to UBC and it was the same story. Yet, by that time KFM had been naming several polling stations where Kampala Central Member of Parliament Erias Lukwago was clearly in the lead. But even then, KFM could not give the results any context. For example, they could have said that with “MP Erias Lukwago has taken an early lead in the mayoral race, leading by 58% against NRM’s Peter Sematimba with 60 polling stations reporting.” They just kept on mentioning the results of the six candidates at the different polling stations.

Even after the Kampala Returning Officer announced the official results from the first two and later four divisions of the city, the media could not add up the numbers and say that Erias Lukwago was leading with 25 % of the results or 50% of the results so far in.

I called up several journalists and asked them why they were denying their viewers and listeners such vital information. Clearly aware that they had abdicated their responsibility, they all blamed it on their bosses.

One journalist told me his bosses had said the “listeners can do their own additions”.

Oh dear me!

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