Research report on Ugandan media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic and other public affairs – May-September 2020

This study by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) looks at Ugandan news media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic and other public affairs topics, focusing mainly on five key publications. The second in our series on media coverage of public affairs in 2020, the study explores the attention these newspapers and a news magazine paid the coronavirus from 1 May to 30 September 2020, and the nature of coverage.

The first report looked at newspaper coverage from 1 January to 30 April 2020. The publications studied were Bukedde (a Luganda-language daily), Daily Monitor, New Vision, The Observer, and The Independent newsmagazine. The same publications are the focus in this second report, which also looks at television coverage of Covid-19 and other public affairs issues. Three television stations NBS, NTV, and UBC were included in the study. Where appropriate, findings from the May to September period are compared with those from the early part of the year.

The study finds that as the lockdown was relaxed and later lifted and the country gradually got back to business as usual, other public affairs issues regained the centre stage that had been claimed by Covid-19. In particular, politics/elections and justice, rights, law and order issues dominated the non-Covid-19 coverage in this period, with business, finance and economics taking third place.

Most of Uganda’s strategic priorities laid out in the National Development Plan II, such as tourism, energy, minerals, and oil & gas did not receive as much attention in media coverage. Admittedly most of these subjects do not generate the kind of drama that politics and elections bring to the front pages. But it is also likely that those in charge of the concerned sectors have not done as much to attract media attention to these important issues.

The nature and quality of coverage of other public affairs issues did not differ in any significant way from the media treatment of the Covid-19 story. What the findings show on Covid-19 coverage, such as the predominance of ‘straight news’ and event-based reporting, the dearth of investigative stories, over reliance on officialdom including official narratives that are rarely questioned, the ubiquity of single sourcing, as well as marginalisation of women in sourcing, remained very much on display.

Download the full report – Research Report on Media Coverage of Covid-19 & Other Public Affairs – May-Sep 2020


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