By Nankwanga Eunice Kasirye
As the world celebrates the World Press Freedom day 3rd May 2020 under the theme Journalism without Fear or favor, the theme remains a joke in Uganda.
The media industry n Uganda is one of the most brutal and intimidating to the workers therein. The proprietors of these media houses are purely business men with capitalistic minds who only care about the monetary sense of their establishments.
The proprietors are small gods who literally grab and trample on the right of speech and access to information among journalists. The workers therein survive at the mercy of the these proprietors who enjoy the economical, physical, mental psychological and social oppression of the journalists who are praised in the face of the outside public in favor of the proprietors business image.
I would like to share a few scenarios of abuse and oppression of the individual journalists in this country. I was interacting with one of the senior journalist in Uganda who on the surface seems complete and comfortable with her employer for over 15 years back.
The prominent media employer labels the journalists as hawkers (batembeyi) who deserve no attention but pay them whatever you can for a story they bring in. This journalist and several others who preferred anonymity for fear of losing even the little pay per story and the identity, say this prominent employer who publically acts to care about people’s rights pays not more than 6500/=( six thousand five hundred shillings) per a story and does not care how good you become at your job.
The reporters are also not expected to submit more than (four) 4 stories a day and only those that were published/aired are paid for.
Besides the per story journalists, those on contract have no guarantee of job security because the contract timelines change as per the preference of the employer regardless of how good youre, not even how long you could have worked at the station.
Sometimes the employer makes them sign contracts for three months, six months and one year depending on what is convenient.
The female journalists have it so hard on them; they have no right to get pregnant in most of these media houses. Getting married, pregnant and having a baby are the obvious exit steps in these media houses especially the Television stations.
A number of female journalists have either lost jobs, demoted or made redundant immediately after child birth and marriage. These capitalists arrogantly tell these female journalists that they are liabilities if they chose to bear children. Some are publically humiliated during staff meetings with body shaming through abusive labels such as ugly and overweight.
A good number of young journalists work without pay, these media bosses claim that identifying with their media houses is good enough pay for one to survive on and that explains the rampant brown envelopes from the news sources, the compromised facts in stories as well as to shameful greed some journalists present with during food time at functions.
Some media bosses attach small figures (not more than 500,000/=) of monthly salary to these individual journalists but never pay it in full. These capitalists pay small portions in arrears at their convenience.
The few journalists able to earn slightly above the basic pay have made huge inhumane sacrifice for their salaries. These media personalities are completely scrapped off the right to reason, they are turned into shameful puppets, their pride is completely stolen off, they say yes to the dumbest ideas for fear of disagreeing with the boss, and they have low self esteem lest they lose the job and salary.
And succumbing to a boss’s puppet gang is no guarantee to job security; it all depends on how long you stay miserable before him otherwise youre more gullible to replacement if a better puppet avails self.
These employers instill a sense of fear among the staff that individual journalists survive by trying so hard to impress the boss through blackmail, intrigue and backstabbing each other which purely an indirect catalyst from the top.
Most of the journalists you watch, listen to and read from with good pieces of stories well researched, those you watch daring the bullets and tear gas and all the risks surrounding their work, have nothing to retire to after they can no longer run around. Those gallant brains are exploited to the bone marrow.
If by bad chance one gets an accident on his/her way to work, they will basically rot to death if no Good Samaritan comes to their rescue because the media employer doesn’t not care about the journalist survival and life off the screen, air or byline.
Journalists, the Employment Act 2006, provides for laws governing individual employment relationship and it applies to all employees employed by an employer under a contract of service; the journalists inclusive, you just need proof of service not necessarily a written employment contract.
You cannot settle for anything yet you give out a lot, how you allow someone to use you for over five years without any defined modalities of operation.
It is important for the journalists to understand and appreciate their power and ability to sustain the capitalist business media employer; it is until the journalists do fair self assessment and consolidate their efforts that they will attain the fairness they deserve.
Nankwanga Eunice Kasirye, is a seasoned Broadcast Journalist and ChairPerson IAWRT-Uganda Chapter
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