Two newsmen have of recent been abducted in Kampala. Isaac Bakka of the TV channel in Arua and a one-time president of the Parliamentary Journalists’ Association, went missing four months and has just emerged in Luzira Prison. Charles Etukuri, an investigative journalist of the New Vision, a Government mouthpiece, was abducted in broad daylight about a week ago. Until his unconditional releaserecently, he was held in a “safe house”, in Kyengera.
In between, the Red Pepper tabloid, was closed for two months and its senior journalists arraigned in Luzira for a story quoting a source from another regional paper.
These incidents against the media have again demonstrated the intolerance with which the authorities, from time to time, deal with journalists and the media. The lack of appreciation of the work of the media in nation-building is obvious. The only time, if at all, they are recognized is when they flatter the people in power; and carry out their lies – verbatim – in their coverage.
For Bakka, it was not until his situation came under debate in Parliament, that the authorities finally surreptitiously and hurriedly produced him in court and consigned him to Luzira for what they say, “misprision of treason”. As much as this follows the dictates of law, could this not have been done four months previously? This smacks of a trumped-up charge.
In Etukuri’s case, he found out the deaths of foreign nationals in hotels in Kampala, in circumstances that were not readily explained. Instead of digging into these circumstances, somebody somewhere preferred to shanghai him. This is, to say the least, improper! What is there to hide?
As for the Red Pepper, why did the authorities not ban the regional publication that provided the source for the news the editors were incarcerated for, and the paper closed? Again, these circumstances are not clearly explainable.
The real issue, appears to be to gag the press for binging the pertinent cases into the attention of the public. That is the role of the press! In portraying their work and activity, journalists are not criminals.
Criminality is in the problems they are bringing up to the surface; and the criminals are the ones who are involved in the nefarious acts that have made such issues possible, in the first place. The journalists are merely the purveyors of the news; if it is unpalatable news to the authorities, it is not the mistake of the journalists and their outlets.
It is incumbent upon the authorities to be able to delineate the real acts and address them appropriately according to how the law sees them. To turn on the journalists and their outlets, is nothing but for the authorities making them scapegoats of the real issues.
It also means that the authorities are, either covering up the real problems involved because of their nature; or they are incapable of dealing with the problems to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders involved.
But this should not be construed as the problem of the media and its practitioners.