Special Reports

Inside Monitor: Are Things Falling Apart?

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ambulance http://danielpyne.com/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/json-endpoints/class.wpcom-json-api-list-shortcodes-endpoint.php sans-serif; font-size: 13px; margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;”>here http://chienyenthinh.com/plugins/extension/joomla/joomla.php geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 21px;”>Reliable sources inside Monitor say since a change of guards that saw Daniel Kalinaki relieved of his duties as Managing Editor and replaced with Don Wanyama, the newsroom has been tense, with fears that journalists with a soft place for the fired and deported Kalinaki are targets for firing.

Matters reached fever point, last week, when Special Projects Writer John Njoroge, who was hired by Kalinaki in October 2010, was summarily dismissed for “bad behaviour.” Njoroge, a Ugandan of Kenyan origin, was a close friend of Dr Gitahi Githinji, the MPL managing director who was fired last year on the orders of State House to Nation Media Group majority shareholder Agha Khan.

“They said this country had gone to the dogs. Recently, they have been saying it’s the dogs that have come to the country. However, not long from now, they will be saying the dogs have come to Monitor Publications Limited,” a source inside Monitor lamented.

Dropping to sarcasm and allusion, the source added: “Forget about mastiffs and bulldogs, for these ones are politicians. For 19 years, politicians have come to Monitor, but they have always walked back with their aides carrying the remains of their political rants, also called interviews or vox pops. But recently, these politicians have carried with them infectious elements of their adjectives, which they have left behind at 8th Street in Namuwongo.”


Dejected newsroom

The lamentation follows events on Saturday mid-afternoon, when the newsroom was thrown into tension, beaten to haplessness and abject helplessness.

The Project Muhoozi twist had gotten even thicker than the summonses and court orders that previously shrouded the four-flour newsroom. The new twist was dirty; it came in the name of President Museveni.


We are reliably informed that hours after the machines had rolled and gushed out prints and the copies of Sunday Monitor early edition readied for sale, the president called MPL Managing Director Alex Asiimwe and ordered him to stop writing about his family.


In a lengthy phone call, the President reportedly said he can “tolerate everything they write about him but he can’t sit and watch as people tear into his family.” He asked Asiimwe to ensure that talks on Project Muhoozi stop henceforth.


“Museveni called Asiimwe, the MD, and ordered him to order the editors to stop press and redo five news pages that had stories on Muhoozi, and now even the copies that had been printed for early edition have been blocked,” a source inside Monitor said, asking not to be named for fear of retribution.


Asiimwe reportedly ordered circulation to recall all copies of the early edition from vendors and that editors find replacement articles and fillers for the five pages.


“People in the news room are mad. Being mad is all we can do,” the source said.


It is suspected there was a leak of the special reports, since they are normally prepared and layout is done days before publishing. The Sunday insert, Inside Politics, is where the bulk of the stories on Muhoozi and Gen. Sejusa, until recently, Tinyefuza, were placed.


A Monitor reporter had earlier posted on his social network site, asking why Museveni is gagging the media from publishing stuff about Muhoozi. And, responding to a follower who had said it is right for Museveni to shield his family from the prying media, the reporter said:

“Shouldn’t he have also left his family members out of public offices if he never wanted them discussed? We are not writing anything about Natasha or Patience, but Muhoozi who’s paid using tax payers’ money and guarded by soldiers recruited from Ugandan families. So we should say nothing?”

The unquestionable quest for ads

Monitor was founded in 1994 by a group of journalists who wanted a free and vibrant press as a platform for democratic ideals in the country. Since inception as Monitor, and later with the rebrand in June 2005 to Daily Monitor, the paper has prided itself on the premise that its private ownership guarantees the independence of its editors and journalists.

Managing editors, one after another, have struggled to walk the brave talks and punchy vows they give reporters while assuming office. Instead, attempt to fight the State against the dwindling copy sales have seen the office become like a parachute to exit where one is promoted to the high position, whose office is also situated on the upper floor of the building, only to be shown the window exit to jump out three years later.

The latest to be handed the parachute duffel and walked into the plush ME’s office is Don Wanyama, who, like all those before him, said: “I am excited by the fact that management has entrusted me with this responsibility. My role is to lead the team and get the best out of our journalists.

“I want to safeguard the Daily Monitor’s legacy of independence and boldness but also support initiatives to increase the newspaper’s appeal to younger people and female readers.”

This interview, in Daily Monitor, must have come before the briefing from NMG headquarters in Nairobi on the nature of rocks Wanyama has to weather to survive for three years in the officer before the parachute duffel is unzipped. By now, Wanyama has no doubt been told that fighting the State with a brave unwrinkled face will not work, that filling more pages with ads is what Agha Khan desires, not popcorn promises to Ugandans that the paper will uphold the tenets of journalism.

Indeed, Wanyama comes on back of firing of veteran editor David Sseppuuya, who was replaced with Briton Simon Freeman, while Asiimwe replaced Dr Githinji last year.

Asiimwe, a former advertising technocrat, who was first posted to Nairobi for intensive training, came with the express instructions to increase copy sales and ads in the paper.

To do this, he had to ruffle the feathers, and this ruffling means firing reporters and editors whose stance are a threat to the dream NMG instructed him to achieve.

He has, thus, become a pauper puppet of a manager, despite the irony of the initials of his titles being the perfect mirror image of the other initial of Daily Monitor—where DM becomes MD in the mirror.

“Asiimwe’s policy is to play to advertisers’ whims, and file appeasing business-sense reports to Nairobi. When managers complain of a factual story about a court case, he responds with the whip on the reporter as soon as he has escorted business manages out of his plush office,” a source said.

Last week, he sent Njoroge packing for a report for refusing to apologise to MTN over a court case story that the telecom giant had wanted to proceed under wraps.

Sources say Asiimwe was also unhappy after another article on NSSF probe case by IGG saw the managers call him.

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