Jinja. Media owners in Busoga Sub-region have suspended airing for free all government programmes, citing failure by government officials to utilise the airtime.
Explaining the suspension, the president of the Busoga Media Association, Mr Moses Lwokyaza, said when they invite government officials to their radio talk shows and they do not turn up, the omission disrupts their programming.
“We have now decided to suspend free airing because they affect our programming and will divert such time to other programmes,’’ Mr Lwokyaza, who is also the manager of Voice of Busoga radio station, said during a week-long training of the media practitioners in Busoga on accountability and governance.
Mr John Lukooki Magezi, the programmes manager at Bamboo Radio, said despite reducing the time allocated to government programmes from one hour to 30 minutes, it still remains underutilised and has negatively impacted on their programming.
However, the Jinja Resident District Commissioner, Mr Pater Ken Locap, in a message delivered by Mr Sam Kidoma from the district security office, said invitations to radio stations are turned down because when government officials go there, they find Opposition guests who criticise government programmes.
“Somebody invites you to a programme, but when you enter the studio, you find a guest from the Opposition side. Often, the very presenters who are supposed to remain impartial criticise us. This, we can’t entertain,’’ Mr Kidoma said.
Mr James Kigozi, the executive director of the Uganda Media Foundation which organised the training, said their role as journalists is to question those in power, especially on issues of public accountability and governance.
“You are supposed to criticise where necessary and government has a spokesperson. Journalists are not the spokespersons.’’ he said.
About a fortnight ago, one of the journalists from Busoga, during a question and answer session at State House in Entebbe, lamented to President Museveni of how his NRM cadres in the region do not come to their talk shows to explain to the public about government programmes.
But in response, President Museveni, who did not take a swipe against his cadres, said it is also the responsibility of the journalists to educate the public about the government programmes to enable the country’s progress.
In March 2014, during a Uganda National Broadcasters’ Forum, Uganda Communications Commission directed different private broadcast stations to devote free airtime airing government programmes to educate the masses on its policies.
The programmes were supposed to run for 30 minutes on television stations – in a talk show format – and for an hour on radio stations.
Noteworthy, the first 40 minutes were allocated for conducting interviews while the last 20 minutes were for feedback from listeners through phone calls and text messages.
Events such as the Budget reading, State of the Nation address and other national celebrations were all supposed to be disseminated by such stations.