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NRM Spent UGX 3 Billion on Media Space During Campaigns - Dombo

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In a campaign that was scientific—characterized by smaller crowds, broadcast media was a target for all political actors. Though it’s those with money who could buy space. And given that most radios in Uganda are owned by politicians of the ruling party, opposition parties reported being denied access to media space with no explanation.
Museveni speaking at a State House event last year. Online Photo.

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The National Resistance Movement (NRM) spent more than 3 billion Uganda shilling buying media space during the campaign season.  

Emmanuel Dombo, the party director of Communication told Uganda Radio Network (URN) that although the total for media spent is more than 3 billion Uganda shillings, they still have some outstanding debts they are yet to clear. The party bought prime space for its presidential candidate, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was always on radios and TVs every evening between 7-9 PM. 

//Cue in; “I would know…

Cue out…was basically scientific.”//  

In a campaign that was scientific—characterized by smaller crowds, broadcast media was a target for all political actors. Though it’s those with money who could buy space. And given that most radios in Uganda are owned by politicians of the ruling party, opposition parties reported being denied access to media space with no explanation.  

A few incidents: KRC radio in Fort Portal was switched off on December 20th 2020 under unclear circumstances after hosting independent presidential candidate Joseph Kabuleta. 

On November 17th 2020, a local radio station in Agago District was switched off on orders of the district police commander while presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) was speaking to the electorate.  

The National Unity Platform (NUP)’s presidential candidate, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine forced out of Spice FM in Hoima, three minutes into the show on November 27th 2020. The party reported other similar incidents of being denied media space. 

Impartiality test  

According to Dr. Peter Mwesige of Africa Center for Media Excellence (ACME) the media failed the impartiality test during campaigns. “The media’s job was to ensure that everybody who wanted to access media space for paid programming was allowed to do so, not to just have one person dominate screens,” he said in an interview last month.  

Media outlets, he said were supposed to flag paid-for content. “The reader, viewer or listener would know that this is paid for clearly by the ruling party, by the opposition party. That was not always the case. For media outlets that reached the extent of selling their news slots to politicians, it was wrong," said  Mwesige.  

“Those who did that (news slots) crossed the line. They could have still made money without selling their souls,” he argued.  

There were many other players who bought media space or had privileged media access to amplify ruling party message during the campaigns season. For instance, several Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) officials were hosted on Capital Gang during the campaign period. And the last Capital Gang show before January 14th election was hosted at in Gulu at the 4th UPDF Division Headquarters by Gen. Salim Saleh, the OWC Commander.  

Saleh ended up co-hosting the show. “If you haven’t landed in Gen. Saleh’s ambush, count yourself lucky for you haven’t met a major setback to all your initial preparations,” a write-up on the OWC website about the show reads. “This happened when the host of Capital FM’s popular political show – The Capital Gang who came prepared to fire questions towards Gen. Salim Saleh, but ended up co-hosting the show with him to fire the questions that were prepared for him towards other gangstas.”  

Panellists on the show included Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. David Muhoozi, Andrew Sorowen- the AIGP Uganda Police, Andrew Mwenda and Ofwono Opondo. Others were officials from National Planning Authority, Microfinance Support Centre and Uganda Coffee Development Authority.  

Maj Kiconco Tabaro, the spokesperson of OWC said they did not buy capital gang space during the election campaign period.  “OWC never bought space as you may think but OWC participated in a discussion about it.” 

As to how the show ended up in Gulu, he said, “a media house can be anywhere. I think there is nothing wrong with discussing OWC broadly not at Saleh’s home, it was in Gulu barracks. It was an open discussion for everyone to participate in,” Ronald Muhereza, Capital FM’s head of advertising and marketing told URN they cannot “disclose client’s information."      

                               

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