Journalists in Bunyoro region of mid-western Uganda have been cited to carry elements of unfairness while disseminating information about suspected corrupt government officials.
While speaking a media engagement organised by the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity (DEI), the Hoima Resident City Commissioner (RCC), Mr Badru Mugabi, said that it is indisputable that though not all, there are many journalists disseminating information with disregard of the principle of natural justice where the accused person needs to be heard as well.
He noted that some journalists have poisoned the community by disseminating wrong news that could be clarified if the respective government offices were contacted for a comment.
According to him, the RCCs and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) are the official government spokespersons in their area of jurisdiction that should be used to obtain official government positions.
“When you are talking about an individual or government projects like Emyooga or PDM [Parish Development Model], contact that person or the relevant authorities or my office to get the other side of the story for fairness and balance,” he said.
Mr Nicholas Abola, the Information and Communications Commissioner at the DEI, implored journalists to consider investigating corruption cases because it affects the entire public since what could benefit all Ugandans ends in the pockets of an individual.
He said nobody should give up with the fight against corruption though it is clear that it is eating up Uganda to the bone marrow.
“We must stop the business of waiting for workshops to write news and end there. You must go to the field, investigate, get evidence and expose corrupt officials,” he said.
Mr Abola expressed hope that exposing corruption suspects and convicts can go a long way towards fighting corruption.
On corruption dynamics, he said that it carries elements of nepotism and money laundering.
Some officials steal money and transfer it abroad and later return it as investors yet corruption itself is criminal, he noted.
Asked for his opinion about dealing with corruption suspects that appear to be too connected to expose or cause arrest, Mr Abola said that many people claim to be connected when actually they are not.
“Nobody will protect you from being arrested or penalised as long as there is sufficient evidence of corruption,” he said.
The Information and Communications Commissioner urged journalists to read the National Anti-corruption Strategy (NACS) and anti-corruption laws to be able to report from an informed point of view.
He said that Uganda loses Shs9t through corruption per year.
“That is why the president decided to establish the State House Anti-corruption Unit to combat and counteract claims of connections in government whose trace was allegedly ending in the State House where the president lives. It was mandated to investigate and cause arrest and prosecution,” he said.
Mr Abola added that as of now, Uganda’s ability to fight corruption stands at 23% but they aim to raise it to 36% before the end of 2024.
Mr Valence Asiimwe, a Kibaale-based journalist, suggested reduction in the number of public servants arguing that the higher the number, the harder it becomes to control corruption.
Mr Robert Atuhaire from the Albertine Journal online media in Hoima city, traced corruption in commercialisation of leadership.
“They intend to recover all their money spent during political campaigns while others work to recover the money they gave out in bribes to get jobs,” he said.
Mr Stephen Kabindi of Kabalega FM also in Hoima city, said that journalists are sometimes demoralised when suspected corrupt officials are quickly set free and investigations take long to reach a conclusion.
DEI is conducting regional media engagements across the country with a central objective of intensifying the campaign against the evil of corruption in the country.