Uganda: 2021 Polls - Parties Call for Balanced Media Coverage

Bobi Wine and Yoweri Museveni.

The Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) has appealed to media owners to give balanced coverage to all candidates vying for various political positions in the forthcoming national elections irrespective of their parties.

The Electoral Commission (EC) recently announced that the country will hold a scientific election where campaigns will be conducted via digital (virtual), as a way of combating the spread of the coronavirus disease.

This means campaigns will be conducted majorly on radios, TVs and social media platforms.

But the political parties have called for an independent media and warned that the 2021 scientific campaigns will not be free and fair if candidates from both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the Opposition are not accorded balanced coverage.

"We want assurance of the independence of media houses that their (air)waves will not be switched off when they host us," Mr Gerald Kiranda, the secretary general of the Democratic Party (DP), said.

"We paid for various shows in 2016 but they were blocked. The ruling NRM leaders' campaigns were not affected since their programmes were aired," Mr Kiranda said.

The group was meeting media owners under their umbrella organisation, the National Broadcasters Association (NAB) to discuss the dynamics of the forthcoming elections.

He also cited interference by some political leaders, particularly Resident District Commissioners, who switched off some political programmes.

The Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) chief administrative secretary, Mr David Baliraine, said small parties were sidelined by the media during the last elections.

He said the NRM booked shows during prime time when everyone was watching yet small parties were denied such an opportunity.

"In the last election, we went to book a talk show and we were told that the only available time was 3am when everyone was sleeping. You find one party booking all the shows during the day and the small parties have nothing left," Mr Baliraine said.

He said that the RDCs have a tendency of switching off radio stations in their districts that host Opposition leaders.

Similarly, the deputy secretary general of the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change, Mr Harold Kaija, asked the media houses to come up with affordable political programmes for all political parties.

Meanwhile, the NAB chairperson, Mr Kin Kariisa said most political parties have been budgeting for their rallies including tents, music systems and leaving out the media yet it plays a key role in the dissemination of information.

"We are ready to dialogue with various political parties on how we shall help them deliver their messages to millions of Ugandans. This has not been the case with traditional campaigns. I can assure you that we shall use the lowest rates possible," Mr Kariisa said.

He said there is 98 per cent of radio penetration and 48 per cent television penetration across the country, assuring politicians that media will do its best during the forthcoming elections.

Mr Joseph Beyanga, the secretary general of NAB, said various media houses have social media platforms that can reach millions of Ugandans.

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