Today was our designated newspaper day in which we interacted with Uganda's two main print publications: The New Vision and The Monitor. This morning, we met with John Kakande, the editor of The New Vision, which is the only Government-owned newspaper in the country. His talk about freedom of the press in Uganda was very enlightening. We learned that while the Ugandan Government claims there is free press, it is not truly free, as the Government can intervene at any time if there is any hint of support for an opposing minority.
Kakande also discussed the history of media in Uganda, which began in the early 1900s with the first print publication. Radio was introduced in the country in 1954. Today, there are around 100 radio stations in the country, but many of the workers are paid next to nothing, as it is difficult to be prosperous, especially in rural areas with little demand for advertising. In comparison to other African nations, Uganda is second to Kenya as far as the state of the news media, according to Kakande. But even he hopes that the Government will completely remove itself from his newspaper, as there are always issues of censorship that can cover up the truth.
This afternoon's tour of The Monitor was also fascinating. The Monitor, Uganda's leading independent newspaper, is the main competition of The New Vision, and the rivalry between them was apparent. The Monitor claims it has a circulation of 30,000 while The New Vision puts the circulation count of its competitor at 20,000. Both agree (one more reluctantly than the other) that The New Vision does have a larger circulation (around 35,000).
Chris Obore is the assistant news-editor at The Monitor. He is definitely a strong advocate for a completely free press. He thinks it's remarkable that the Constitution has allowed his newspaper to exist independently, but there is still a lot of work to be done before Uganda's press is entirely free. "Even though everything looks great on the surface, we are still fighting Government interference every day," he said. "Freedom of the press is not about journalism; it's about providing a platform for free speech. It is a human right."
For my question, I would like to go back to the presentation by John Kakande of The New Vision. He defended the use of graphic images used on the cover of The Bukkede, saying that the use of these photos (such as mangled bodies from traffic accidents) has inspired people to take action and speak out about issues such as traffic control and safety. Do you think that is the only reason they publish these photos?Also, do you personally think it is a good idea to show such graphic pictures in the media here in Uganda?