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 December 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.
Key takeaways from the December report
- The volume of stories across all three media platforms monitored dropped significantly in December. Radio registered the biggest decline in coverage.
- Not as much attention was paid to the parliamentary election across the three media platforms. Radio, which is more local in reach and should therefore pay more attention to local races, gave the same low attention to the parliamentary election as the newspapers and television.
- Print and television carried more stories about incumbent Yoweri Museveni, while radio gave more attention to challenger Robert Kyagulanyi. The gap between the two top candidates was more pronounced on television. FDC’s Patrick Amuriat was third on all three platforms.
- Museveni had a bigger advantage over Kyagulanyi in New Vision, which is majority owned by the government, and UBC TV, the state/national broadcaster. The difference between New Vision and its sister Luganda newspaper, Bukedde, in the treatment of Kyagulanyi makes for interesting reflection.
- Although overall Kyagulanyi attracted more newspaper front-page stories than Museveni in December, he received only one in New Vision. Museveni won the battle over front-page pictures by a distance. Once again he had his biggest advantage in New Vision.
- It is curious that UBC TV gave more coverage to retired army officers Henry Tumukunde and Mugisha Muntu than any other opposition candidate.
- Despite the high levels of violence in the campaigns, an overwhelming majority of stories about the presidential candidates were couched in a neutral tone. There were less than four negative stories for every 100 reports analysed.
- The use of the right of reply was not respected across all media platforms. In some cases, particularly on radio, this was on the orders of media owners.
- Event-based reporting continued to dominate the coverage. Some journalists blamed it on the packed campaign schedule, the violence unleashed almost on a daily basis, and inadequate manpower within the newsrooms. Others attributed it on lack of skills and a poor or aloof attitude of many journalists.
- A lot of reporting did not provide sufficient background and context or depth. Once again, this problem was particularly pronounced on radio.
- Only newspapers registered an improvement in interrogation of candidate claims or promises. Overall, most stories that carried such claims did not subject them to journalistic scrutiny.
- There was little or no investigative election reporting in December. Although, the proportion of enterprise stories increased, generally straight hard-news reporting continued to dominate coverage.
- Gender imbalance in reporting worsened overall, with men extending their dominance over election coverage.
- Single-sourcing remained a glaring problem in December, particularly on radio where slightly more than two thirds of the stories had only one or no source.
Download ACME’s report on Uganda Media Coverage of the 2021 Elections – December 2020 or read it online below.