22 March 2019

Uganda: State Agencies Decry Media Over Corruption Reporting

Kampala — Anti-Corruption agencies yesterday decried the Ugandan media for paying little attention to stories on preventing and fighting corruption.

Officials from Inspectorate of Government, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Anti-Corruption Court and civil society organisations involved in the fight against corruption made the call yesterday during a training on the role of the media in "citizen engagement in Uganda's Anti-Corruption Response" at Fairway Hotel in Kampala.

The DPP, Justice Mike Chibita, challenged the media to do in-depth investigative stories on corruption to help the state agencies with good information to rely on to catch the thieves.

"The quality of stories is very disappointing. Stories on corruption are so shallow. You should be the leading whistleblowers because you interact with the public. You have sources," Justice Chibita told the media practitioners at the training organised by Strengthening Uganda's Anti-Corruption Response Technical Advocacy Facility (SUGAR-TAF) with support from UKaid and European Union.

He said most of the media coverage on corruption is a replication of what is in the suspects' statements on the court files instead of deeper investigative reporting that captures a broader picture about the vice.

He castigated journalists for inaccurate reporting and said some are involved in cover-up of the cases.

The DPP spokesperson, Ms Jane Kajuga, urged journalists to report corruption beyond what is in the courtroom.

She said while the trial is going on, there are other related processes such as recovery of stolen assets which involve freezing the suspects' bank accounts and seizing their properties by the prosecution but these activities are never reported by the media.

Ms Kajuga said the coverage is high at the beginning but fades as the trial advances.

Ms Munira Ali, the spokesperson of the Inspectorate of Government, said most journalists who show interest in reporting about corruption have in some instances been inaccurate, biased or judgmental.

She castigated journalists for trusting whistleblowers more than the official institutions that fight corruption.

Ms Ali said the IGG does not go by what the public call 'big or small fish," adding that the investigations and prosecution of corruption is guided by the evidence against the accused.

Ms Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition in Uganda, said the media has a big role to play in the fight against corruption because stories published or broadcast inform public perception about the vice.

"The public perception about corruption is informed by what is in the media. Most people get information from the media," she said.

However she noted that it is a tough challenge to determine whether increased coverage of corruption in the media means that corruption has increased in the country.

"The media determines the trend and the people's perception of corruption," she observed.

Kagaba criticized the media for reporting corruption when the suspects have been arrested or the trial has started but later abandon them for new cases.

Mr Tito Byenkya an official from SUGAR-TAF challenged journalists to always study the judgments passed by courts to ensure the public knows factors the judges considered in determining the punishments or acquittals of suspects.

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