As we commemorate the World Press Fredoom day.
To my Ugandan Facebook family, let us ashame the devil that is the under appreciation of talent in the media and entertainment industry in Uganda. Today, May 3rd is World Press Freedom day so let us write, tell and speak the truth. I have seen and read a huge backlash on this young lady Sheila Gashumba. I know most of these comment are not coming to her over the subject matter but rather on her perceived personality.
For those who will read this and don't know me well, let me make things clear. I did journalism at Makerere University. At the time I was already working as a DJ right from my A level vacation. I had been employed by DanKidega. II went on to start a newspaper for a General I will not mention in 2006 and in late 2007 started work with Andrew M. Mwenda at the independent by the time we took root in 2008 we were big. In 2010 I joined the Daily Monitor and started the Special Projects investigationa desk under the guidance of Bagyenzire Atuhaire Alex and leadership of Jack Daniel Kalinaki. I later worked for @chapter4uganda under Nicholas Opiyo and went on to revive the CEO Magazine with St. Muhereza Kyamutetera and Arinaitwe Otim Rugyendo If it were not for these people, I would not have survived because the media and entertainment industry in Uganda is not serious.
I am writing from a point of authority and not hear say.
Rarely do I agree with many of the things she has done lately, she has and still is an amazing media personality unlike many others. But like many of you, she had her reasons. This doesn't mean she is not credible.
Sheila is right and many media and music persons here will agree that they are not paid well. Let us be realistic. When you have a brand name as some sections of this industry choose to call it, it must come with a given level of appreciation so that this brand can grow faster and further. In my field of journalism, I know very senior and seasoned journalists who are paid UGX 35,000 for a 1000 word story, UGX 10,000 for a picture which a media house later owns and goes on to win awards.
Invite journalists from a press conference and see if you will gate coverage without giving transport refunds. Invite media house for workshops and you will see house journalists will fight for food and alcohol. It is not because they want to but what else can they do. They are suffering. I never fought that way but I suffered in other bitter ways.
A good case in point. Let us ask that journalist who took that picture of women sleeping in the market during lockdown, the one president Museveni has been Praising, let's ask him how much he earned from that picture or any other picture. Let as ask our cartoonists how much they earn for those lovely sketches that keep us laughing for years.
Ugandan media house don't appreciate their employees. Editors survive on allowances and bribes because their salaries don't make ends meet. Senior journalists are taking bribes no wonder many moved to PR. Talk show hosts turn into MCs in their free time because they cannot survive on their monthly pay. You will always hear people say you can't survive on one pay, you should do something extra. We'll true, but as one of them I know that journalists and artistes are the most honest people on this planet until life corrupt them and they are not strong enough to stand up.
You will never read a comment from me accusing a journalist of being corrupt. We know each other, we know who is dirty and who is struggling with loans and who is running away from money lenders etc. I remember two senior editor who would be in hiding all the time from loan sharks, who would not even have food at home yet they have to produce the paper. I know talk show hosts who after hosting a person would walk them to the parking lot asking for the 50,000 Sheila Gashumba is talking about. I know editors who have lived on Blackmail yet when they started they started with a passion to inform, entertain and educate.
And now, this COVID-19 Pandemic has given a huge opportunity for some tainted deranged and hungry journalists to milk from government coffers, money that could aliviate the suffering of the impoverished.
I blame governments.
Governments dont want educators, entertainers and informers to be settled. Governments never want those with the ability to influence the flow of information of any kind to be settled.
I blame media houses.
Media owners want more profits than the welfare of those who build those media houses and their brands.
But the biggest blame, I give to us. Because unlike Sheila Gashumba, we keep silent. We forget that they need us more than we need them. Wake up.
By: John Njoroge