Two months into the presidential campaigns, a new report has faulted the media for allocating more time and space to the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.
The report titled Monitoring Media Coverage of the 2016 Election: Fundings, November 2015 shows that Museveni got more front-page stories in all major newspapers and was allocated more time on televisions and radios.
Released on December 29, 2015 at Royal Suites hotel in Bugoloobi, the report is authored by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), a media-focused NGO. The report reviewed election stories in nine newspapers, five TV stations and 33 FM radio stations.
The report singles out the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) for allocating more time to Museveni, who is also the NRM flag bearer, at the expense of other candidates. The November findings show that UBC gave 44 per cent of its airtime to President Museveni, 24 per cent to Amama Mbabazi and a paltry four per cent to FDC’s Kizza Besigye.
As a public broadcaster, the report notes, UBC is mandated to allocate equal time to all candidates to present their programmes to the electorates. Besides UBC, the report shows that the media has concentrated on covering three of the eight presidential candidates: NRM flag bearer Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, FDC’s Besigye and independent candidate John Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
“As the country inches closer to the polling day, the media could do better quality reporting in terms of source diversity, explanation or interpretation of the contents of their stories as well as offer more analysis of the election issues,” Dr Peter Mwesige, the executive director of ACME, said in a statement.
On the positive note, the report found an increase in the use of ordinary persons as sources of election stories by media houses. Dr George Lugalambi, one of the authors of the report, said quoting ordinary persons as sources is a good sign of involving ordinary voters in election issues.
However, in terms of gender, the report notes that most election stories mainly quoted men as sources as opposed to women. This curtails the tabling of issues that particularly affect women. This was mainly attributed to two factors: there are few female journalists and women tend to shy away from discussing topics such as politics and the economy. Only 12 per cent of the stories used women as sources.
A similar report released about a month ago by the Global Media Monitoring Project, 2015, with a subtitle Who Makes The News, only 28 per cent of sources in Uganda are women. This, too, was attributed to a limited number of female journalists in newsrooms.
“Female journalists are more likely than the males to select more female news sources or to write stories with women as a central focus, to raise issues of gender equality and to challenge gender stereotypes,” the ACME report notes.
It further shows that election stories provided for background and context to election stories and interrogated different claims made by presidential candidates. According to the report, The Observer was top on the list of newspapers that provided background, context and covered both personalities of candidates as well as interrogated claims by candidates.
On the lows, the November report also shows that journalists still largely rely on a single person as a source of the story as opposed to quoting many people.
The Monitoring Media Coverage project analyses stories on presidential and parliamentary elections by major media houses with a view to contribute to free and fair elections. The project is funded by Democratic Governance Facility under the Citizen’s Election Observers Network Uganda (CEON-U), a working group of more than 30 civil society organisations monitoring elections.