The African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has released its December report on media coverage of Uganda’s 2016 general election released.
ACME’s media monitoring project is funded by the Democratic Governance Facility under the Citizens’ Election Observers Network Uganda (CEON-U), the local observation initiative which comprises 18 civil society organisations led by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.
According to the findings of the report, in November last year, President Yoweri Museveni was provided more front page coverage by newspapers in December.
The incumbent received 39.6% of the front page coverage compared to 36.1% for Mr Mbabazi and 20.8% for Dr Besigye.
Mr Museveni also received more newspaper coverage in general and had more time allocated to him on radio and television.
He received 44.2% of newspaper coverage followed by Mr Mbabazi (28%) and Dr Besigye (19.8%).
On television, Mr Museveni took 53% of the time against Dr Besigye’s 20.2% and Mr Mbabazi’s 18.9%.
On radio, the incumbent had 42% compared to Mr Mbabazi’s 26.6% and Dr Besigye’s 22.8%.
UBC TV favouring Museveni
Dr Peter G. Mwesige, ACME’s executive director, said Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC TV), which is by law mandated to give equitable time to all presidential candidates, has continued to pay disproportionate attention to President Yoweri Museveni.
He says the data they gathered indicates the percentage of airtime that public broadcaster UBC TV spent on the incumbent increased to 78.9% in December from 43.9% in November.
Senior editors at UBC TV acknowledge that their coverage is tilted towards the incumbent candidate and blame it on lack of resources, saying only a quarter of their budget for the coverage of all presidential candidates was funded.
They argue that unlike other candidates, incumbent Museveni still enjoys the services of the Presidential Press Unit, which supplies many of the president’s campaign-related stories.
“While we understand UBC’s budgetary constraints, we do not think this entirely explains the tilted election coverage that we have seen thus far,” said Dr Mwesige.
“I doubt that UBC TV would carry more stories from Mr Museveni’s key opponents — Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Amama Mbabazi — if the two candidates sent them recordings the same way the Presidential Press Unit does.”
He said UBC should do more to respect the law and fulfil its mandate of serving all Ugandans.
He urged the Electoral Commission and the Uganda Communications Commission to show more interest in this issue.
The December findings also show that the State broadcaster had the highest percentage of male sources (97.6%) among TV stations and newspapers monitored in December.
“This denies voters the opportunity to hear diverse perspectives that multiple sourcing tends to generate,” said Dr Mwesige.
The December findings also show that media houses across all platforms by and large maintained the poor practice of not questioning claims or promises by candidates.
Television did particularly poorly, followed by radio. Newspapers performed better, but still fell short of what is desirable.