KAMPALA — I have seen comments on social media suggesting that journalists who walked out on UPDF officers at Uganda Media Centre yesterday required approval of their editors. No. None at all as long as there was a compelling basis (as it was yesterday).
A few years ago, we walked out on President Museveni at State House Nakasero for making us wait for his presser indefinitely. That day, a house collapsed near Nakasero Market, killing scores, and we told the presidential guards that it was a bigger story.
We also walked out on a minister at Uganda Media Centre. These decisions are intended to communicate the media fraternity’s deep displeasure, usually over repeat actions/transgressions by newsmakers, and require no approval.
Why? Because walk-outs are civil and peaceful and at most only embarrass and injure the ego of a news-maker, which is not a crime.
Journalists are most times agile, respond with speed at short-notice, but they are not dimwits or expendables. Frontline journalists are most likely to treat news-makers the way news-makers treat them.
What requires intra or inter-institutional coordination is a media decision to impose a news black-out on actors or entities. Such ultimate decision will predicate on well-documented gross breaches.
Members of the security and intelligence agencies perform challenging tasks, many times thanklessly and at high risk to themselves, to keep us safe. But it’s no licence to kill or brutalise citizens, including journalists, as a game.
It cannot be that journalists who cover opposition politicians are bad and those covering the ruling NRM party candidate are good yet they are all deployed by, and report to, the same newsroom.
Most people in security and intelligence that I know are not bad, but their pin of honour cannot be covering up misdeeds and violations by their colleagues. Neither should journalists.
We all know Uganda must exist for the security forces and journalists to work in the country and for media houses to thrive. But no individual is Uganda. We’ll all benefit if we act with decorum, compassion and commonsense.
Journalism is not a crime. Quick recovery to the injured colleagues.