Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo expressed concern today, about the boiling acrimony inside the Monitor, which this week culminated in the sacking of its formidable journalists.
An Opinion Poll supposedly commissioned by the company is at the center of the steaming saga.
Published last Monday, the poll suggested that if the next general elections were to be held today, incumbent President Yoweri Museveni would win with 57%, while 6% would vote former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
Infuriated opposition political parties hastened to rubbish the results with claims that the poll was a fake.
Leader of Opposition, [also a board member and one of the Monitor Founders] Hon Wafula Oguttu, took to social media and claimed the poll had not been commissioned by the company, but was planted there by government agents.
At the heat of the melee, Daily Monitor’s Managing Editor Mr Don Wanyama was relieved of his duties the following morning, under a purported necessary company restricting exercise.
Government spokesperson today decried what he termed as lack of fairness and objectivity by the company’s top managers.
“The essence of media houses is to hold public authority to account. If they [Monitor] claim to be independent, they should do so both internally and externally,” said Opondo while on the weekly Capital Gang talk show.
“What we are seeing in the Monitor today is something many of us have complained about – lack of fairness and objectivity.
The said lack of neutrality Opondo said was not only at Monitor but also government owned New Vision. Opondo told of how he had caused the sacking of New Vision Corporate Secretary Konrad Nkutu in 2001, after intercepting emails confirming he was a campaign Manager of FDC Presidential Candidate Dr Kiiza Besigye.
This was against the law, for any person working for a government Corporation to indulge in party politics.
The government mouthpiece went on to accuse Monitor of “shelving” results of a poll commissioned by FDC in 2010, which turned out giving president Museveni a big lead.
“We found it strange that an independent newspaper could accept to hide such results. But as you know, government works with everybody. We found the results and we asked other media houses to run them.
Opondo asked the Monitor and other media houses to always exhibit impartiality. “If you want to hold government accountable, you should hold yourself accountable first.”
In a statement issued today, Daily Monitor’s Executive Editor Mr Malcolm Gibson appeared to attribute the “Shocking” results of the poll, to sacked Wanyama, who was in its charge, for “circumventing the normal editing procedures.”
“The [Poll] story was conceived and ultimately published without proper oversight, contrary to current guidelines. In other words, editors who should have been involved were not notified or consulted. That situation has been addressed to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Malcolm in the statement.
He went on to assure readers that in the coming polls ahead of 2016 general elections, greater care will be taken at each step in the process – from the questions asked to the final presentation – so that the information doesn’t confuse and mislead, as last Monday’s effort did, but enlightens and informs.
Don Wanyama however, holds that Malcolm’s statement was out of pressure piling from the French based research company Ipsos, which is being depicted in this saga as being paid by government to release ‘favourable’ poll results.