This editorial is republished with permission from Daily Monitor
The recent punching of a Bukedde TV journalist by a minister and failure by journalists to condemn the vice has exposed the fraternity as disorganised and toothless.
The associations of media practitioners, owners, trainers, and media rights watchers are disconnected. Their silence in this case left the issue to be pushed by only Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA). This was manifest when only UMWA marched to Parliament to present a petition against the errant MP and minister Abraham Byandala.
Even when it was clear Mr Byandala’s brutal conduct undermined the freedom of the profession, the other media associations remained tight-lipped as if nothing terrible had happened to one of their own. Even when they knew Mr Byandala’s actions had brought the image of Parliament and Cabinet into disrepute, none of them pressed the institutions to reprimand Mr Byandala. Only isolated voices were raised; calling for action against the minister.
This inaction by the journalists associations points to their abdication of duty, failure to value their own and stand with them. In this case, and many more before it, the journalists have failed to focus on their faults before pointing out flaws in others. Journalists shouldn’t have ignored their own while picking faults with others.
Indeed, Mr Byandala has felt no pressure. He has not deemed it necessary to make a public apology, or explain his assault of Ms Judith Naluggwa. Regrettably, the journalists associations left it to Ms Naluggwa to sort out the mess.
While Ms Naluggwa took the best option to report the assault to the police, her isolation by her fraternity forced her to quietly negotiate with her tormentor and hush up the case. Worse, are claims that some members of a journalist association pressured Ms Naluggwa to talk terms with her tormenter, Mr Byandala.
Unsurprisingly, Ms Naluggwa’s withdrawal of the case against Mr Byandala has not only blighted the reputation and integrity of the current weak journalists’ associations. It also calls into question the allegiance and mandates of its office bearers. The journalists associations failed to appreciate that this disgrace poses implications beyond Ms Naluggwa, her family, and Mr Byandala.
Rightly, as observed by Ms Margaret Sentamu of UMWA, a case of assault of journalist stabs at the heart of the profession. It follows in the now-usual practice of intimidation and brutal attack on media freedoms and practice, with impunity.
Unless journalists drop this hypocrisy, reform and overhaul their shadowy associations, they will continue to see more clearly the specks in other people’s eyes without taking out the log in their own eyes.