For some time now, I have been reading stories in the New Vision, Bukedde and some online publications surrounding Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga, the lead Pastor of Christian Life Church (CLC). As a Journalist, I am desperately concerned about the manner, the structure and the tone in which the stories are presented and what exactly, the media houses want to achieve.
For starters, there is an ongoing case in the High Court where three suspects alleged to be bodyguards of Pastor Ssenyonga are accused of assault and aggravated robbery.
Some reporters have since opted to publish a series of stories advancing a narrative as though the pastor himself was involved in the alleged crime. This is done by consistently writing screening headlines of articles with Ssenyonga appearing as a subject.
Whereas, it is true that prominence (persons, places, things and situations well-known to the public) is one of the determinants of news – that the more renowned a particular name, the more interest the news will create among its readers, journalists must trade cautiously in order not to publish defamatory things which tarnish the reputation of other people.
In this case, Pastor Ssenyonga is not in any way liable or involved in the alleged crime, but his name is consistently attached to the same by reporters. This is not what the value of prominence in news entails.
It is ethically improper and suicidal for media to act like hired mercenaries to pull down Pastor Ssenyonga or any other individual by way of unjustifiably repeatedly publishing tarnishing header with nothing new in the story.
I have also read stories of issues to do with his finances and management of his media consortium. Surprisingly still, one side is propaged. This is not journalism.
Journalists are mandated to be fair, by exploring all sides of an issue and reporting the findings accurately.
Members of the public should never be used to exaggerate the importance of a story. Journalists have a responsibility to examine their own motives, and ensure that their personal feelings and emotions do not influence what they report, whom they talk to, or determine which elements of the story they highlight.
As a Journalist, citing the recent stories about Pastor Ssenyonga in the dailies, I see what appears to be a syndicated, well orchestrated and paid for move by some media to misinform, blackmail and propagate false propaganda against the man of God, and this is really very unethical.
Journalists need to think carefully about the language and tone they use to ensure that it doesn’t give an inaccurate and unfair representation of the facts. Our job is to inform the public debate, not manipulate that debate.
We are working on behalf of the public, not using them for our own ends. Journalists should have no motivation other than presenting sourced and verified facts.
We should not have a desired outcome because that’s activism. And some would argue that journalism and activism are not compatible. Let’s do our job regardless of the outcome.
Journalism is about facts, truth, accuracy, fairness and objectivity and because of this, it has the ability to shape people’s beliefs and opinions. It opens a reader’s mind to experiences, it can build a person’s legacy or destroy his or her reputation and so, we should not be used to taint anyone’s reputation.
The writer is Ugandan Journalist with passion for current African affairs
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