Ugandan journalism hit another low yesterday when journalists were seen scrambling for cash handouts from businessman Hamis Kiggundu after his meeting with Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.
The journalists had earlier on covered the launch of the distribution of relief food to be given to Ugandans affected by the COVID-19 lockdown in Wakiso and Kampala. At the function, Kiggundu donated Shs 100 million towards the fight against coronavirus.
All was well until Kiggundu brought out a bundle of Shs 50,000 notes and publicly started distributing it to the more than 30 journalists each scrambling to have their share in total disregard of coronavirus social distancing guidelines of keeping 4 metres away from the next person. The line was soon joined by passersby who saw an opportunity for free cash.
However, these were thrown out as Kiggundu said the money was payment for journalists only. They queued up in desperation to get a share of the money which Kiggundu held in bundles. Although each of them was 'entitled' to Shs 50,000, many were seen rejoining the queue only to be embarrassed by the businessman.
It is unethical for journalists to receive monetary and non-monetary inducements to influence news stories, yet this remains a common practice and the biggest threat to journalism in Uganda today.
Moses Bayola, the general secretary of Uganda Journalists Association (UJA) condemned the unethical display by journalists adding that poor pay cannot be used as an excuse to shame the profession.
Some of the journalists who received the money have since contacted reached out, saying the story on the incidence should be 'left to die.' UJA has also requested to be excused out of the story since they will be perceived in a bad way by colleagues who are apparently underpaid.