- What should be avoided. News reports or commentaries should not be written or broadcast in a manner likely to inflame the passions, aggravate the tension or accentuate the strained relations between the parties concerned. Equally so, content with the potential to exacerbate communal animosity or national conflict should be avoided.
On March 10, Sunday Monitor carried an article on the humour page with a screamer headline; ‘Why Ugandans would miserably lose to Rwandans’. The same article was published online under the same headline.
For any one that has been following the simmering conflict between Uganda and Rwanda in the last weeks resulting in the closure of the border, this jaw-dropping headline was bound to attract many eyeballs – in print and online.
Indeed within two hours of its posting on Facebook, the article had attracted 235 comments, 12 shares and 327 likes and dislikes! Most of the comments were negative, wondering how this story could have been published, the motive and whether its potential impact was considered. I shall quote a few below:
Alex Busulwa: “This is the most stupid article I have ever come across… You [are] aggressively fuelling hatred, I have started doubting your credibility.”
Alieli Bosco: “I have now known why government is always at loggerheads with Daily Monitor. It is because of your biased reporting….”
Ssendagire Arthur: “A regrettable post from Daily Monitor… unthoughtful (sic)”.
Shem B. Kisarale: “What kind of nonsense is this from Daily Monitor? This is so unpatriotic!”
There were a few positive comments though, like that of Usman Bah Ssemakula who said: “Many of you commented without reading the article. The author is 100 per cent right, he clearly explains how Ugandans jump from one issue to another in a blink of an eye! This is the biggest weakness Uganda has as a country.”
Another positive comment was from Christian Asobora: “I almost judged this book by its cover. You could easily go the way of military in here, but nothing like that! Only deep social aspects of our society. Lovely read!”
The article was an attempt at satire and chose a screamer headline playing into the current tensions between Uganda and Rwanda to draw readers into the subject of Ugandans’ lack of concentration on any given issue.
Did it succeed? Israel Manzi thought it did, describing the article as “Satire at its best… I like those who comment without reading the story” while Guma Abson Halid thought otherwise, saying “I just wasted my three or so minutes to read such nonsensical school-boyish article from this ignoramus” [See dictionary for meaning of ignoramus].
Should the writer and editors have published this article in the manner they did? No! A reference to the NMG Editorial Policy Guidelines below shows why.
“News, views or comments relating to ethnic or religious disputes/clashes/interstate conflicts should be published after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution, balance and restraint in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to national harmony, reconciliation, amity and peace. Sensational, provocative and alarming headlines are to be avoided.
News reports or commentaries should not be written or broadcast in a manner likely to inflame the passions, aggravate the tension or accentuate the strained relations between the parties concerned.
Equally so, content with the potential to exacerbate communal animosity or national conflict should be avoided. Headlines should not to be sensationally provocative, and must justify the matter printed below them.”
A reader sent me a text message in reference to the March 11 Daily Monitor cover photo of the Ethiopian Airlines crash scene that showed body bags of victims being loaded onto a truck saying it was in bad taste. Covering disasters involving death is pretty dicey for editors, especially when it comes to graphics. Do you shock the readers or not?
NMG policy guides as follows: “…publication of photographs showing dead or mutilated bodies, bloody incidents and abhorrent scenes should be avoided unless the publication of such photographs will serve the larger public interest.”
In such circumstances, therefore, a photo of the crash scene with a broken off part from the aircraft may have been a better choice than that of body bags. But that’s just one side of the argument.
Robert Kato asks: “I would like to know the time programmes that air at night on NTV are re-played during day. For example, when is the repeat time of shows like On-the-Spot, Pressbox, Tuwaye, Doctalk, Perspective with JK, etc?
I asked NTV head of news to respond, and she did: “We currently don’t repeat On-the-Spot and Pressbox. We repeat Tuwaye every Tuesday at 3pm, Doctalk every Sunday at 2pm and Perspective with Josephine Karungi every Wednesday at 2.30pm.
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