AL-JAZEERA SAYS M7 HAS BEEN SNUBBING THEM: BUT WHAT DO WE LOSE?
By Our Reporters
President Museveni stands accused of being indifferent towards an offer for a comprehensive interview by Al-Jazeera news channel. The revelation was made hours ago by Andy Gallacher, a senior Al-Jazeera producer based in the network’s Washington bureau. At the end of his 30 minutes interview with Bobi Wine Kyagulanyi Sentamu under the “Talk to Al-Jazeera” segment, Gallacher implied that to avoid being accused of any biases against Kampala, they had reached out to State House seeking a one on one interview with the Ugandan big man but their request had so far not yielded results. Apparently they want the President to personally respond to the very many damaging allegations (especially those accusing SFC of torture) that the ghetto president, currently in Washington, has been making on the different Al-Jazeera platforms. The Kyaddondo East MP has regularly featured in their news and widely-watched programs including “The Stream” where he was hosted last night along with Chris Baryomunsi who was unable to decisively counter him because of network limitations. As he ended his interview with Bobi Wine (who claimed to have premonition that he was going to be tortured afresh and possibly be killed on return to Uganda), Gallacher said the world’s very influential & opinion-shaping channel was looking forward to an opportunity to equally interview the Ugandan veteran leader.
He said the Ugandan State House promised to get back to them “and we are still waiting to hear from them.” However, there are fears that President Museveni (who last Sunday said he doesn’t need any polishing to influence the way the world perceives him) may after all not be interested in the Al-Jazeera publicity because of the way he was last time humiliated by the Al-Jazeera Arabic moderator. Museveni handlers say that bullish pencil-thin moderator wasted a lot of the President’s time yet never allowed him to comprehensively make his point on anything. The big man expected to have the opportunity to say all the good things and market Uganda as a good tourist and investment destination but instead the bullish moderator only concentrated on questions that portrayed him as a dictator seeking to rule for an eternity. In his Sunday address, Museveni showed contempt for foreign media channels and made most of his reference to CNN which he said Trump was after all right to liken it to fake news. He said what matters to him are the good works of his government and not the publicity he gets on any media platform be it local or foreign. He said since their bush days, his NRM preferred to be marketed by its good deeds as opposed to investing in media propaganda and showbiz which he vehemently condemned in his address. He said he had met many delegations of young people seeking to be his spin doctors polishing his image (at a fee) and he said so far none of them had succeeded conning him of his hard-earned money. He called it buyayeism which loosely translates into extorting money from through false pretenses.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
But in case Al-Jazeera’s efforts remain unsuccessful, what would Uganda lose by our President consistently snubbing them? In operation since 1996, Al-Jazeera is among the world’s most influential satellite TV channels especially in the natural resource-rich Arab World and Middle East where 54% of the people depend on it as their primary source of information on anything. A recent article in New York Times testified to the channel’s influence including greatly contributing to the Arab Spring that swept long-serving veteran leaders in Libya, Egypt & Tunisia and in Abdullah Saleh’s Yemen. It also has a strong online presence influencing perceptions globally and it has indeed propelled the Bobi Wine brand especially through its “The Stream” program whose two female presenters clearly seem to be fanatic admirers of the budding politician from Magere. They have discussed or made reference to Mr. Wine with or without him in the studio. Weeks ago, Andrew Mwenda (a renowned Musevenist) was hosted on “The Stream” but wasn’t able to persuade many as the moderators gave more time to two female bloggers Grace Natabalo and Rosebell Kagumire who openly condemned the Ugandan leadership for not tolerating dissent. The New York Times analysis took note of Al-Jazeera’s “aggressive coverage…propelling insurgent emotions from one capital to the next” (not very different from what Bobi Wine is spearheading). The 22 year old news channel grew to overshadow many obscure Arab World’s older news outlets because of the revolutionary way it reported events including questioning despotic political establishments in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries. It reported things that were previously considered abominable for media coverage in the Middle East. But it was the war in Afghanistan that brought them global audiences and took them places. Their bold decision to open up a bureau in Kabul (2001) at a time everyone else considered it risky enabled the channel to get regular exclusive inflammatory videos by Osama Bin Laden who had sponsored the September 2001 terror attacks on the American soil. This caused hostility in western capitals especially the US but it made them controversial and the world’s number one source of news on Arab world. It has since grown to a world-wide audience of over 150m daily viewers of authoritative news sourced from around the world using their close to 100 media bureaus. Whereas CNN and BBC are seen as too American and British, the Al-Jazeera is sought for their editorial independence. Even when they are significantly funded by the Qataris government in Doha, they are renowned for objectively reporting on anything including questioning the democratic credentials of the Amir of Qatar. This simple story merely offers a small glimpse into why it would be imprudent for any world leader to decline an invitation to speak on Al-Jazeera.