Vision Group chief executive Robert Kabushenga has announced a campaign of zero-tolerance to corruption to ensure professionalism among the company's staff attached to the various platforms. Below is his statement:
I have decided to come clean with you, our readers/ audiences, to acknowledge publicly that indeed, there are some among our staff who are engaged in extortion either as blackmail or in return for guaranteeing favorable publicity.
This has now become an industry-wide problem and has reached widespread proportions. This is threatening to destroy our credibility and for this reason we, at Vision Group, are determined to deal with this problem on all our platforms - radio, television, newspapers, magazines and online.
Our newspapers are New Vision, Kampala Sun, Etop, Rupiny, Orumuri and Bukedde. The magazines are Flair for Her, Bride & Groom and City Beat. Our radios are Arua One, Radio West, XFM, Etop Radio and Radio Rupiny. We also have television stations; Urban, Bukedde and TV West.
By going public in this manner, I hope I can persuade you, our audiences, to work with us to remove this vice for the good of the industry.
On Tuesday morning, I got a call from a Dr. Mpoza Lwanga, who was extremely upset with two of our staff at Bukedde TV. In short, they had gotten him to pay money for a story about his graduation to run in our hugely popular news bulletin, Agataliiko Nfuufu, but nothing happened.
When our investigators caught up with the culprits, they claimed that they did not submit the story because Dr. Lwanga had not paid them the balance.
This is just one of the many stories that are now becoming public. Not so long ago, we dismissed two reporters for extorting money from the public. I have heard of cases where parents of children who perform well in examinations are charged money to appear on television and in our newspapers.
Then there are cases of companies or individuals, in need of publicity for their activities or who simply want their opinions published, being asked to pay money.
Of course there are quacks who pose as journalists and connive with unscrupulous individuals in security organizations and witchdoctors to extort cash from the public who find themselves in a spot of bother. This is absolutely wrong.
I am told that as part of this con act, the public is asked to factor in a percentage of money for me or for the editor. This is totally false.
Another typical scam is where advertisers are duped into paying cash to our people who promise either additional publicity for the money or claim to be giving an even higher discount. This is a lie because you are being cheated.
No one needs to pay any individual at Vision Group to ensure publicity or even to stop it. Those who find themselves having to do so are being taken for a ride. We are going to carry out a crackdown on this behavior.
Furthermore, we shall exercise greater vigilance to ensure adherence to our editorial principles. Any publicity that we judge to be induced by undue influence, especially financial gain on the part of our staff, will have career-stopping consequences.
In order for us to deal with this problem, it is necessary for us to acknowledge its existence and the extent of its occurrence. The purpose of this note is to do exactly that and to apologize to those who may have been prejudiced by the behavior of our staff. It is also to assure the public that we will do everything legally possible to stop this practice.
Willing participants among you in the public are advised to cooperate with us by letting us know the culprits or you risk public embarrassment for propagating this vice.
In particular, I wish to caution civil society organizations, government departments, multinational companies and event's organizers who, in the name of facilitating journalists, encourage this unethical behaviour.
Furthermore, this serves as a public warning to all those who are associated with us and are engaging in this behavior to stop it. If they don't, then no amount of pleading or lobbying will save them from summary dismissal and related public embarrassment.
Nevertheless, it is only fair to let you know that we have paid for publicity opportunities for which one is issued with a receipt. This is handled by the sales, marketing and finance team.
These include designated talk shows, supplements, social events and other forms of advertorials. No member of our editorial team is authorized to transact any business that involves the exchange of money on our behalf.
We do not charge money for the coverage and publication of news items, opinion, letters or invitations to media debates. For that, we pay our staff a decent wage and facilitate them sufficiently for them to work without having to ask for special facilitation or tokens of appreciation.
We shall soon run a publicity campaign for further information on this and how you can help stamp out this deadly practice that can destroy the otherwise useful work of journalism.
If in doubt, please just go to any of our offices and you will be assisted. If you have any further information about this kind of behavior, please call 0414 337 306/118 or 0312 337 306/118.