Uganda Journalists Face Book War Explodes

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Police is now at the blood-spattered scene, information pills carrying out investigations.

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The accident has caused a huge jam along Bweyogerere-Mukono road, leaving public transport paralysed.

More information will be provided shortly.

On Tuesday, information pills The Observer’s Shifa Mwesigye boldly accused Uganda Radio Network’s Charles Odongtho of having been compromised for extensive coverage of NRM activities during the 2011 Presidential election campaign.

The accusation was posted on Uganda Journalists’ Facebook forum, a closed group. Now a brigade of journalists says should have sought permission to publish the information.

We on Wednesday morning broke the scandal that has left the affected journalists reeling in the murky waters of shame.

The High Command of the mighty website sat last evening and defended their position to publish the scandal, saying information posted on Facebook ceases being private.

“Journalists must learn to behave professionally not only in public but also in their private time. Fear of public scrutiny is the least we expect to hear from the Journalists’ fraternity,” said liberal editor Giles Muhame.

He added: “Sweeping such a scandal under the carpet surely strips journalists of the armour and moral authority needed to expose evils which are deeply entrenched in our society. Run a follow up story,” Muhame directed.

Muhame further stressed that one case of misconduct involving a journalist soils the name of colleagues. “The bad apples must be exposed. Hiding under the cover of closed group to misbehave is utterly deplorable,” Muhame added.


Several independent-minded scribes rubbished the group’s moderator Grace Natabaalo’s idea of setting up rules barring members from publishing journalists’ ‘secret conversations’ in other media platforms.

Kalungi Kabuye, a senior and experienced editor advised: “According to what I know of copyright laws, and according to a chap from the AFP Agency who was in town recently, almost anything posted on Facebook is deemed to be published. So if a reporter is a member of this group they have a right to use whatever is posted here. Still a gray area, I know…”

Kabuye further analysed that shelving material posted on Facebook is next to impossible.

“You can be sure whatever is posted here will get out to the public, which means those restrictions if put in place will be self-defeating, that is others not members of this group will be able to publish but the members are not,” he said.

“I also don’t think journalists should be thinking of restricting expression at any level. Effectively what you will have will be a form of ‘licensing’, where members who do not abide by the restrictions have their ‘license’ to belong to this group withdrawn. Lastly, Facebook is a very public forum, don’t think otherwise,” he added.

Shifa Mwesigye said much she wanted her remarks treated with ultra-secrecy; the right to publish Facebook information should not be given by anybody.

“How many of you journalists would find exchanges between Mbabazi and Bukenya in a closed group on Facebook and not publish them after verifying that it’s indeed the two?” she asked.

“It’s like how Red Pepper hijacked the drink up and turned it into a gossip source that some people stopped coming. They look at it as a source for gossip and we look at it as a private affair, depends on where you are standing,” she added.

Binyamin Rukwengye, an employee at Uganda Media Centre said: “Shouldn’t we apply the same rules to ourselves as we apply to others? I don’t understand why journalists assume that they are above reproach and can say/do whatever they want without reproach but would not allow it if it were anybody else!”


Earlier, veteran journalist Joachim Buwembo had blasted The Observer for extensively quoting the journalists’ internal debate on Media Centre’s Fred Opolot’s ‘facilitations’.

Observer recently penned a story that journalists had furiously slammed Opolot for setting up a budget to ‘facilitate’ journalists for ‘fair coverage’ of the Parliamentary oil probe and other developments in the nascent oil sector.

Buwembo noted: “They (Observer) said a “charged” Buwembo said…. Wonder how they saw the charge in me!”

This compelled Observer’s Michael Mubangizi and Edris Kiggundu to storm the battle field.

Edris Kiggundu said: “I would understand if regulation is aimed at stemming insults and abuse but not at curtailing our work. Michael saw a story in the FB discussions generated by his article in The Observer and went ahead and did it as a follow up. I think Muhame, even though I disagree with him some times, spotted a story idea from a discussion and did the same.”

Kiggundu added: “In as much as it is good to consult some people before publishing information related to their posts, it realistically impossible to reach all of them. I rarely comment on this platform but I follow its discussions avidly. Even where tempers have flared, I have not encountered any post that is a threat to our integrity or security as journalists. Let this platform not be used an extension of self-censorship that we see in some of our newsrooms these days.”

Mubangizi’s nuke was well prepared after sarcastically apologising for not seeking permission from those he quoted – particularly Buwembo.

“I am however worried if those rules are to apply they will turn this forum into a breeding ground for pretence where people say/write things that they don’t believe in,” he said.

“I personally believe that people should write things they can repeat outside this forum. If for instance this forum is discussing Kabushenga or Mwenda article, people should give honest views which they can repeat if they met Kabushenga or Mwenda,” Mubangizi added.

“On Mr Buwembo’s question on how I could have seen how charged he was while commenting on an earlier story, with all due respect, I don’t think that needed me to have been with him while he made the comment. I think that can be deduced from one’s tone. For instance I was neither with Shifa, Odongtho or Seamens while they made their recent acrimonious exchanges, but I can authoritatively say that they were charged or heated,” Mubangizi defended his position.


Paul Aruho said: “I am thinking again, there could be nothing wrong with using whatever is here in our publications. What is shared here is public and I think there could be many people outside there who don’t access this platform and benefit by using the comments in our publications.”

In a related development, Shifa Mwesigye accused Red Pepper of publishing stories from the private drink up which has a rule, ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’.

“I’ve been a victim so has Joshua Mmali, Leylah, Joy Dora. I’ve not seen a motion barring them (Red Pepper snoops) from reporting what happens there. If you finally find your way into Owori’s private club will you ask for her permission and private members to write about it? People land on private and confidential emails and go ahead and write stories. Remember the Kazibwe saga recently? Who asked for her permission? Let people do what they are trained to do, just watch what u say, and by that I especially mean me.”

Daily Monitor’s Andrew Bagala made it clear that news is about what some people don’t want others to know.

Denis Jjuuko, however, said it was lazy journalism for the’s Social Networking Reporter to publish information from the closed group.

“That lazy journalism is the one that fails the public and abuses our roles…” Jjuuko said.

Another liberal scribe Julius Mucunguzi clarified anything discussed on Facebook ceases being a private conversation.

“Do you even think it is only seen and read by members of the group? Let me give you the simple answer: they are not. So, I am really surprised that anyone would be saying that the discussions were internal! We should not abuse the terms “closed group” to make statements we can’t substantiate or which are false,” said Mucunguzi.

Robert Kalumba, a relationships ‘expert’ writer at Monitor exhibited the highest level of excitement and naivety regarding sensationalism in headline writing.

“Mbu….”NRM Bribe Rumours Trigger Explosion in Journo Fraternity” And you call that a headline? How basic? What “explosion” is this chap talking about!? Banange look around….have you missed the said “explosion!?” Mbu trying to have a “captivating” headline!” he said thus becoming the laughing stock of the day.

The development underlines the need for debate on issues of privacy of fast-spreading social networking websites particularly facebook and twitter.

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