Hon Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of ICT and National Guidance has called upon Ugandan media to present the country in a positive manner to the outside world.
Tumwebaze was on Thursday speaking at the inaugural stakeholders’ dialogue held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.
Tumwebaze said ICT advancements have been at the centre of a transformation on how governments and private sector operate and its role in revolutionizing the efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness with which governments and private sector serve their people and customers respectively.
He said, according to United Nations e-Government Survey, Uganda’s global rankings as a country in regard to the uptake of IT innovations/services is still not good.
“Our ranking globally has dropped from the 143rd position out of 190 countries ranked in 2012 to 156thout of 193 countries ranked in 2014. From a continental angle, Uganda’s ranking dropped by six (6) positions down from position 20 in 2012 to position 26 in 2014. This statistic calls for adoption of rigorous sector innovations, agile implementation of best IT practices and matching ICT enabling policies.”
He asked government officials to take the lead and break walls of old technologies.
“Our midterm strategic objective is to join Africa’s top six ICT leaders that is, Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa, Tunisia and Egypt.”
Tumwebaze said by merging the Ministries of ICT and National guidance, H.E the President appreciated the need for government to communicate factually and timely – enabled by the robust ICT infrastructure.
Government agencies will have as a matter of priority to adopt the available technologies in addition to the conventional ones in order to communicate what services they are offering to the citizenry.
“My ministry will work with other government ministries, agencies/departments (MDAs) to build capacity in effective communication, research and content dissemination.”
“When government communicates factually and timely, citizen demand for the available services will be stimulated since they will know what to ask for, where, how and when.”
He said while criticism against the government in power is healthy and indeed part of the communication we are emphasizing, “narratives that seek to brand our mother country Uganda wrongly and frame it with sensational and conflated images, should not only be seen as unpatriotic schemes of enemies but should be confronted and opposed by all”.
Tumwebaze said if Ugandans accept the story of their country’s heritage and its super natural gifts to be wrongly told, or glossed over, then citizens all lose, irrespective of the political beliefs they share.
“And this is where the role of media as impartial umpires comes into serious play. The altercations of the various political contenders not withstanding- and as you moderate those political arguments in your news platforms, do so jealously guarding the image of Uganda.”
He urged journalists to always tell the story of Uganda’s uniqueness and progress, asking journalists, reporters and editors without any prompting of state regulation develop a patriotic culture of being able to discern always what can hurt the image of Uganda.
“Don’t be used to amplify and regurgitate anti-Uganda narratives by selfish and irresponsible people, be it politicians or otherwise. If for example you claim and report with a screaming headline that there is war in Uganda well aware that there isn’t, just know that you are hurting millions of our jobs.”
Tumwebaze said as a result of negative stories, operators of tourism lodges suffer booking cancellations and make refunds, airlines and tour companies close, remittances slow down, the economy generally would stagnate if not decline.
“It’s a matter of citizen livelihood. Therefore, this is a matter I would like to continue having a honest conversation with you media Practitioners. Let us together evolve an acceptable code of responsible reporting about our own country, while at the same time not compromising a free press that continues to hold government accountable on its promises.”
He called upon media to give equal media space.
“If you give a full page to an article of my critic, then do the same to my rebuttal. If you give a minute to a sound byte of my critic do the same to my rebuttal news byte such that your clients receive a balanced menu. Don’t deliberately make government look bad as if we can’t justify our actions by denying equal space to government messages. This is all I ask of you and it’s what I propose to define our principled relations.”
On the other hand, Tumwebaze urged government departments, officials and leaders to share information with the Press instead of allowing speculation and misinformation to thrive.
“My message to fellow government leaders some of which are represented here by their respective sector spokespersons is that; if you don’t tell your story, someone else on your behalf will tell it the wrong the way. We are in an information age and therefore government departments must mainstream content gathering and dissemination in their day to day official business using all available communication platforms. It is also important that when any official of government is to communicate, let him/her do so factually.”