Daniel Kalinaki's weblog

A commentary on news and events in Uganda and elsewhere


Just an ordinary bloke.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The pot and kettle are both black!

Robert Kabushenga, in today's Newvision, of which he is CEO, takes a snide swipe at Andrew Mwenda and Timothy Kalyegira, accusing them of dancing on the late Brig. Noble Mayombo's grave.

Robbo, as Kabushenga's friends refer to him, takes exception to the obits that both hacks wrote about Mayombo, and accuses the "Mwenda-Kalyegira axis of commentary" of "deliberate distortion", of "elitist arrogance and narcissim", and of being "diabolic". He did not accuse the duo of causing global warming, selling nuclear fuel to Iran or arming the Janjaweed, but maybe he only ran out of space.

I read Robbo's piece at the end of a week in which I have been thinking a lot about the African culture of never speaking ill of the dead. It is a line of thought that emerged as I wrote my own obit for Mayombo for The EastAfrican (see post below). I personally thought that Mayombo's life was a contradiction and said as much. I was, thus, a bit disappointed that Robbo did not include me in the axis of evil commentary.

I also thought that Kalyegira's column, last Saturday, was one of two things; read as an obit on its own, it lacked balance. As a critique of the effervescent see-no-evil, hear-no-evil eulogies of Mayombo in the dailies, it was brilliant. Andrew's piece in Sunday Monitor was a bit weepish and flaccid.

So what got Robbo foaming at the mouth? He accuses Daily Monitor of being a "mouthpiece of the Forum for Democratic Change", and its owners of a deliberate effort to "create despondence and undermine(s) our national self-confidence". Without saying so, he refers clearly to the Nairobi Stock Exchange-listed Nation Media Group.

Robbo draws parallels with the way Daily Nation covers President Mwai Kibaki, as well as members of the opposition and sees two editorial standards; one for DN, another for DM; "one that promotes social responsibility in Kenya and another one that advocates anarchy".

Robocop is armed and loaded.

I agree with Kabushenga that Daily Nation covers Kibaki's 'policy pronouncements' better than Daily Monitor covers Museveni's. But is it part of a grand conspiracy theory? I don't think so. Daily Nation also covers Kibaki better than New Vision covers Museveni.

(Part of the reason is that Kibaki's policy pronouncements are few and far between and therefore easier to give prominence, but that does not vindicate some of the Monitor's -- and New Vision's lapses).

However, what Robbo is doing is not new, but equally dangerous; insinuate ill-motive in everything Daily Monitor publishes, add a pinch of salt, a spoonful of xenophobia and you have a flambe of hate, marinated in its own juice, topped with rejection and with spite offered as a side dish.

It is easier if it's just the odd critical foreign correspondent; deport him.

Robbo does not point out one fact about Mayombo's life that the Daily Monitor got wrong. He also says nothing about the gushing eulogies the paper also carried on Mayombo. He chooses to only see evil, hear evil.

The Ugandan media has several weaknesses; money, people, processes, public image, and the products themselves. To critique the media through politically-partisan foggy lenses swings the debate away from the critical issues that need to be addressed.

It allows us journalists wiggleroom to ignore valid criticism by labelling it the rantings of the politically wounded. It puts undue pressure on Daily Monitor not to run anything critical of government lest it confirms the conspiracy theorists. It puts New Vision reporters under pressure to write conformist articles, lest they follow their more independent-minded editors out of the door. Media managers spend time scheming against the competition instead of planning for their readers.

Robbo, of course, has a right to critique his rivals' content and reportage. He is better off doing so as a media executive, to improve that of his own enterprise, and not as a party cadre criminalising alternative thought by pouring scorn and ridicule upon political opponents, real and imaginary.


P.S Am I the only one who imagined, on reading the NV, Kalyegira frantically calling the editor of his Saturday column, asking to be allowed to add a juicy rejoinder before the paper went to the press?


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