Many of you have probably been following the ongoing issues between sections of the independent media and the government in Uganda (here is a terrific overview if not). Essentially, the government claims it has been searching for a letter/the source for that letter detailing an alleged succession plan for the son of the current president, Yoweri Museveni. This letter was published just before the closures began.
On social media today my Ugandan friends have been sharing the following letter, supposedly from Nation Media Group to Museveni.
NOTE: It has not, at the time of writing, been verified as the real deal but is being fairly widely considered such See below for update)
The tone of this letter is pretty unsettling. If this truly represents the position of Nation then it seems as though we can expect to see some more conciliatory behaviour from them – it sounds to me like they’ve decided that opposing the regime isn’t worth the hassle (not to mention the loss of revenue). This could be the chilling effect breezing into town.
It’s worth noting that my casual chats with journalist friends in the country have indicated that many think the media house searches were not what it seemed – could the source of the Muhoozi letter be that valuable, post publication? The police searches were ordered stopped by Ugandan courts yet they carried on. The rumours floating around are vague: they were looking for something else. Whether any such details will emerge in the coming weeks remains to be seen but the feeling remains that it would seem like a strange series of actions on Museveni’s part simply to recover a letter which is, by now, common knowledge.
UPDATE (UTC 14.08, 06.06.13)
The Monitor have just released an article called ‘What we agreed with the Government‘.
A hopeful/deluded extract, depending on how cynical you are:
f) At no time during the consultations did we make any concessions or sign any agreements. We reiterated our willingness to uphold the highest standards of journalism as per our policy.
g) We did not promise not to cover any issues as demanded by the Government representatives. We consistently reiterated at the meetings that our editorial guidelines are very specific that any matters that touch on the public interest will be covered fully, fearlessly and independently subject to the values of truth, fair comment, attribution and factual accuracy.
It looks like the letter going around social media was authentic:
In deference to the person of the President and to reaffirm our commitment to uphold our editorial policy, the NMG Board did write to President Museveni reaffirming this position and regretting that the government had found it necessary to shut down our businesses because of what it considered to be unprofessionalism on the part of our journalists. And, to his credit, all President Museveni said was critical for moving forward was a need to reaffirm the principles of fair journalism, and he specifically agreed that there should be no sacred cows.