Uganda is currently in the campaigns period that will soon lead to elections that are the centrepiece of democracy.
Through voting, people voice their opinions, express their hopes and aspirations, discipline their leaders, and ultimately control their nation’s destiny.
According to democratic theory, elections are the public’s source of power, but in order to use its muscle effectively it has to know where candidates and political parties stand on public policy issues like health, education and infrastructure.
Besides the Ugandans themselves, two groups have major responsibilities in this regard.
Presidential aspirants, Members of Parliament and local leaders must state their positions. Otherwise, there is no real choice and elections lose their meaning.
But they are not solely responsible for the success of the system. Uganda’s media therefore has a duty to evenly cover the campaign rallies thoroughly and accurately to inform what the different politicians stand for.
Currently a section of media houses in Uganda are selecting particular political parties for their news broadcasts which is unfair to other independent candidates and political parties that are left out of the news.
Although all news is important, but campaign coverage is crucial because of its capacity to empower the electorate. What voters know about campaigns comes to them almost entirely secondhand from newspapers, television, and magazines.
Voters will not be able to meet their candidates face to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are learning about them indirectly from television and newspapers. Therefore, in assessing how well the political system works in Uganda, it is essential to inspect the media’s treatment of elections.
In reporting on campaigns, the news media bring their usual procedures and tendencies to the campaign trail. In other words, far from simply mirroring all that politicians say and do, journalists select the information to be reported.
Because time and space constraints do not allow speeches and rallies to be described in their entirety, certain parts are mentioned, others ignored.
Thus, once again the basic question is not whether the media are selective–they have to be–but what they include and exclude, and how these choices affect voters’ beliefs and behavior.
Therefore fairness in the coverage of the campaigns resolves creation of tensions that would otherwise have been avoided to the benefit of the stability of our country.
In order to fulfil their roles, the media need to maintain a high level of professionalism, accuracy and impartiality in their coverage.
The author is a veteran journalist