Kampala. A delegation from the Electoral Commission (EC) yesterday met with the senior management team of Nation Media Group-Uganda (NMG) and discussed preparedness for the 2021 General Election.
The EC team led by the deputy chairperson Hajjat Aisha Lubega Basajjanaku said the media plays a crucial role in shaping narratives of the campaign period.
The two teams also discussed issues of violence against journalists during the election period and explored whether media houses can tally their own election results.
The EC team said they are determined to deliver a credible poll and asked the media to rally the population for a peaceful election.
“The general public, and particularly the electorate, will be following all the electoral activities through the media. We, therefore, consider it very crucial for media owners and managers to have deeper understanding of the roadmap and the processes involved, in order to ease your information and education functions. The Commission is, indeed, committed to deliver on its crucial mandate. However, the conduct of the media on how it covers the election and the role the media will play in keeping the country united during and after elections will be equally scrutinised,” she added.
Violence against journalist
Prominent among the issues discussed were the continued violence against journalist during campaigns and voting. Mr Daniel Kalinaki, the General Manager – Editorial of NMG-Uganda, tasked the commission to ensure that journalists are protected during the election period.
Mr Jotham Taremwa, the EC spokesperson, acknowledged the problem and said they will ensure that the commission plays its role. He, however, challenged media houses to coordinate with commission and avail details of journalists covering elections in time.
Editorial accuracy and fairness
Mr Taremwa also tasked journalists to crosscheck facts with the commission before publishing them.
“We hold ourselves to the highest editorial standards and there is transparency about what we promise to do. People who feel we are not living up to those promises and standards have a platform where they say this is what you claim to be and this is what you are not doing,’ Mr Kalinaki responded.
He also said the group has appointed a public editor whose work is to ensure that NMG newsrooms perform to the expectations of the audience.
Mr Tony Glencross, the Managing Director of NMG-Uganda, said the media house is guided by the group editorial policy, which clearly states expectations and minimum standards for journalists working with NMG platforms.
“We try to remain as balanced as we can in all the elections. We are part of the NMG which has a special code of conduct which is applicable to all the group companies… and we stick to that policy. Also internally, we try as much as we can to minimise inciting or sensational things so we try to report about the facts on the ground and real issues which affect the voters,” he said.
Mr Glencross said they have an NMG Editorial Policy, which is the only one in the country available to the public, and urged the public to acquaint themselves with the policy so that they can hold the newsrooms accountable.
Tally of results
Mr Kalinaki asked the commission to allow media houses to tally election results, saying it fills the gap the commission takes to announce the next batch of results from the districts.
Mr Kalinaki said with availability of mobile phones, every candidate may have their own results and the more the commission delays, it gives space for candidates to declare their own results which could be a source of trouble.
Ms Justine Ahabwe Mugabi, a commissioner with EC, said while the media houses are free to tally results, the final decision to announce the winners remains the preserve of the commission.