ACME: NRM officials still intimidating radios


African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has released its January Report under the project titled, “Monitoring Media Coverage of the 2016 General Election”.
The project, which started in July 2015, analyses media reporting on the presidential and parliamentary elections with a view to identifying good practices or pointing out gaps so that they are addressed in good time.
Dr Peter G. Mwesige, ACME’s executive director, said radios continued to lag behind other media forms on both quantity of election stories as well as on most measures of quality.
“This has been blamed on the prevailing environment, which includes ownership influences, self-censorship, intimidation from ruling party and government officials, as well as low human and financial resources at most upcountry stations,” Dr Mwesige said.
The reports shows that more than half of the election news on radio (59%) did not contain background and context, 71% of the stories did not interrogate claims or promises by candidates, and 78% of the reports relied on single sources.
“This denies voters the perspective required to make informed decisions,” Dr Mwesige said.
On the whole, however, most media houses across all platforms (print and broadcasting) paid more attention to issues than to personalities even though most of the reporting followed a conventional approach that tended to focus on events.
The report says the use of ordinary people as sources also improved, especially in newspapers and on television.
“However, there was no improvement in the use of women as sources across all media platforms. On average only 2 out of every 10 sources were women.”
President Yoweri Museveni [highest coverage], Go Forward’s Amama Mbabazi [second highest coverage] and FDC’s Kizza Besigye [third highest coverage] dominated coverage but more coverage was extended to the other five candidates curtsey of the presidential debate.
Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC TV), which is by law mandated to give equitable time to all presidential candidates, maintained its disproportionate attention on President Museveni with the percentage of airtime spent on the incumbent slightly increasing to 81% in January from 79% in December.
UBC TV staff, according to the report, continued to argue that Mr Museveni’s lion’s share of the airtime was only because he still enjoys the services of the Presidential Press Unit, which supplies many of the president’s campaign-related stories.
They added that his challengers have not taken up the offer to supply their own footage.
The New Vision and Bukedde (both in the Vision Group stable in which the government owns majority shares) also gave far more space to President Museveni (64% and 67% respectively) than to other candidates.
The New Vision led with Museveni on the front page on 15 out of the 31 days in January.
The January findings also show that the media paid overwhelming attention to the presidential election at the expense of the parliamentary races.
Story credit: acme-ug.org

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