Ugandan media coverage of the 2021 elections – October–November 2020

This report from the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) looks at Ugandan news media coverage of the 2021 elections, focusing on five key publications, six television stations, and 35 radio stations. It explores the attention these newspapers and a news magazine, television and radio stations paid the election-related news and issues in October and November 2020 and the nature of their coverage.

Relying mainly on quantitative content analysis, the report explores the volume of coverage of election-related news and issues by these selected media houses, the types of elections covered, the types of articles published (news, analysis, opinion, features, etc.), the reporting formats employed, the topics covered, and the tone of coverage. The analysis also covers the voices in the coverage, including the occupation and gender of sources.

The report also pays particular attention to the coverage of the 11 presidential candidates, focusing on who appeared on the front pages of the newspapers, the volume of coverage on each of them, how much space or time was dedicated to each candidate across the three media platforms monitored, and the tone of coverage of the contenders.

The key takeaways of the report include:

  • Slightly more equitable coverage of the ‘leading’ presidential candidates than in the last elections. In November, a number of ‘minor’ candidates also attracted some decent coverage. It is likely, however, that the attention paid to the ‘leading’ opposition candidates has been driven in part by the incessant police and military attacks especially on opposition candidates and their supporters.
  • Even where the drama and violence have been the focus of media attention, often the reporting has been devoid of the background and context necessary to explain what is actually happening and why.
  • A lot of the reporting has remained heavily event-driven rather than issue-based. Although the major parties launched manifestos at the beginning of the campaigns, many a reader, viewer or listener will be hard-pressed to recall the position of many candidates on key issues.
  • Radio, which is the source of information for 80 percent of Ugandans, continues to offer the least amount of time to election news. Although some radio stations stand out for their comprehensive political reporting, a vast majority continue to make do with short reports mostly about events organised by political parties, the Electoral Commission, local leaders, and police.
  • The challenge of insufficient interrogation of candidate and party claims persists. A vast majority of the media reports where claims and promises were made did not contain any serious scrutiny from the journalists.
  • The marginalisation of women in media representations continues to show in the ongoing election coverage. The numbers from the October and November coverage suggest that the use of female sources has stagnated in the low 20’s.
  • The national broadcaster, UBC, has spread around its coverage to opposition candidates. Kyagulanyi and, especially, Amuriat have received some significant coverage, even if the incumbent has dominated both in terms of frequency of stories and the amount of time dedicated to his campaign.

Download the full report below.

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