By Monica Kobusiinge
Uganda’s Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze on Thursday morning launched the Independent Online Journalists’ Association of Uganda (INDOJA-U) at Hotel Africana in the capital, Kampala.
While addressing the audience of mainly online journalists, traditional media, CEOs and public Relations managers of various multi billion companies, Minister Tumwebaze, who was representing the chief guest prime minister and head of Government business Rt.Hon.Dr. [Ndugu] Ruhakana Rugunda, asked journalists not to fall for schemes by politicians who use the media to revive their political relevance.
“Members of the press should not be used by politicians in their intrigue wars and infighting. You should rise above that level,” Tumwebaze said.
He also encouraged the association to ensure that they feed their readers with quality and verified information.
“Today, there’s nobody with a monopoly of [news] gate keeping. There’s nothing like an exclusive story anymore. For you to be relevant, you must show the difference between general publishing and quality assured content on your platforms,” he lectured.
The Minister promised to ensure that the PPDA Act is revised to include online media as an advertising channel for government.
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi warned that the authority shall be keen to make sure compliance with laws is followed strictly.
“Digital transformation has come with emphasis on individual freedoms, however what’s of concern to us is – this freedom should be exercised with regard of other people’s freedoms. The media should be responsible without being forced by law,” Mutabazi said.
He pledged to work with the formed association to professionalize online media in Uganda.
Andrew Irumba Katusabe, INDOJA’s first President explained that part of why the association was formed is to defend the Right and Freedoms of the press local, regionally and internationally. He also said the Association was formed to champion the professionalization of the online media in Uganda.
He noted that INDOJA-U is an all-inclusive body that brings together all online publishers in Uganda who aspire to run their websites professionally.
“Considering the fact that digital media has lately been largely unregulated resulting into what is largely known as fake news, half-baked stories or inaccurate reporting, we thought it important to form this association so that we can not only self-regulate ourselves, but also lead the way in professionalizing online media in Uganda. INDOJA-U will ensure that media rights and freedoms of online and traditional media are respected and upheld as enshrined in the laws of Uganda including the supreme one-the Constitution,” Irumba said.
He urged government to seriously consider online media as far as sharing the national advertising cake is concerned.
“Almost all government advertising budget is allocated to the traditional media yet the impact of digital media in the socio-economic development of Uganda can’t be underestimated,” he said.
Irumba also asked all other online publishers who are yet to join the association, to come on board “because we are stronger when we are united.”
Business Focus, TheSpy Uganda, SoftPower News, Spy Reports, Grapevine, The Investigator are some of the pioneer members of the association that was created in July this year.
Mr.Joe Kigozi, the chief strategist at Next Media who represented Chairman National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Mr. Kin Karisa said that online media is a necessary evil, noting that publishers should know that there are rules of the game. He said NAB would ensure that online publishers up their game.
“There is no game without regulations, if we want to grow the Industry, we must adhere to the rule of the game,” he said.