By Irene Kiiza - Onyango
On a scorching Thursday afternoon, I boarded a taxi from Mutungo heading to Kampala. Everything was as usual, until a girl I will call Beautiful, seated at the back, received a phone call.
Now to the media houses, for long you have and continue to feed us with news that concentrates on women nudity, alcohol binges, serial daters, sex scandals, drivers of monstrous cars like Hummers, creating celebrities out of nothing among others. What you don’t know is that progressively, you are adjusting our mindsets to stop being bothered about the serious issues of life and instead appreciate the softer and less important aspects.
It was no ordinary call.
“You old hug, leave Alfred alone,” she told the caller in an annoyingly sweet voice.
“Yes, he is mine, just leave him alone. He is my husband and whatever you do, you will never be his wife,” she added.
So, considering how much you have fed us with below average content, where do you expect us to get the mindset to address serious challenges to the press like the Government Siege of your premises and its implications to the future of the press in Uganda? If we had been given an opportunity to read and learn from you about these fundamental necessities in our society, then maybe we could have come up in arms. But you chose to follow the money. Hence the famous proverb; “As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.“
Everybody else in the taxi went silent, probably because the conversation we had been forced to tap into was getting interesting.
“You are a grand mum, don’t you feel embarrassed to insist on grabbing a boy fit to be your son? Just leave him alone. I would tolerate it if it were your daughter dating him, not you!”
At that point the man seated one passenger away from her started shaking his head in disbelief. Different passengers turned to look at her, others wrinkling their faces in dissatisfaction, but Beautiful was heated up and it looked like she did not care anymore and simply wanted to get her message across.
I believe such a character will only be willing to go to such extents if the Government decided to deny him/her their conjugal rights because ....
“Just hand Alfred the phone and let me talk to him. In case you did not know, he has already paid my dowry, he pays my tuition (fees) and I am his future wife, okay?” She yelled into her phone.
“Ok, thank you for calling. Now will you hand Alfred that phone, I am sure he wants to hear me speak,” she instructed.
But the person on the other end would not relent.
The conversation turned into a war of words and more insults flew back and forth... Unfortunately, we could not hear what the caller was offering. I was tempted to ask the young lady to put the receiver on loud speaker for our benefit, since the phone call had already turned into a kimeeza of sorts, but there was no chance at interrupting her.
“So what? I have told you he is using you; anyway go ahead and entertain him; he is too bored with me miles away.”
Eventually she got off the phone and as if instructed, everyone on board started discussing the situation.
The opinions that came were as varying as the passengers on board. To her credit, Beautiful answered every question she was asked as if she had to, albeit with a lump in her throat. Apparently, Alfred lives in Australia with the woman that had called and the phone call was intended to tell the Ugandan girl to back off.
But should you confront a woman you suspect to be having an inappropriate relationship with your husband? Maybe yes, maybe no!
Garbage in Garbage Out; What you feed the public is what you get out of it. This answers the question why the Ngoma (Luganda daily) newspaper that the Monitor Publications had launched failed.
You want allies, build them. You cant plant a Mango Tree and expect Jack fruit from it. Start sensitizing we the public on the kind of issues that will increase our alertness as civil society and you will see a big difference.
There is nothing like free press in the world anymore. Even in the countries that we so much admire like the USA, the concept of the free press is a myth. In 1983, 90% of American media was owned by 50 companies; in 2011, the same 90% was controlled by 6 companies. This has even made it easier to control what the Americans get from the media.
In Uganda, between The New Vision Group and Monitor Publications, they control over 60% of the media. With the New Vision being firmly under Government control, we had the Daily Monitor to help as a balancing act only to realize that based on this article published on the 31st of May 2013, we can as well kiss the free/independent press good bye.
Batshit Crazy ?