By Our Reporter
As part of preparations for 2021 general elections, the Electoral Commission has reached out to Online Media Publishers seeking their views on how best the EC can make use of their respective platforms to carry out effective voter education. The EC effort is being spearheaded by EC Secretary Sam Rwakojo working closely with EC publicists Jotham Taremwa and Paul Bukenya. The trio on Tuesday morning had a breakfast engagement with Online Publishers at Hotel Africana and the interactive session was organized under auspices of OMPA (Online Media Publishers Association). At the meeting Rwakojo explained that lessons had been learnt to the extent that the EC now realizes the strength of online media and its now inevitable to formally have them on board. Rwakojo was specifically moved by OMPA President Giles Muhame’s revelation (as corroborated by IPSOS) that 94% of media consumers in contemporary Uganda access news through the mobile phone. The fact that more than 1m young Ugandans become eligible voters annually was additional cause for contentment in the EC team because most of such youths rely on new technology/media (as opposed to conventional media) to access information. Rwakojo, who had earlier on predicted rapid online media growth at the expense of newspapers, referred to his son who is an S6 vacist saying: “I have never seen him reading any newspaper but he is always accessing stuff on the phone.” He said it was increasingly becoming necessary for the EC to deepen its cooperation with online media since it’s the one the majority of young people mostly consume. Rwakojo further demonstrated his commitment to work with online media by revealing that a provision had deliberately been put in the 2021 voter education budget to ensure EC sufficiently makes use of the digital space to communicate relevant messages to the population. He explained that the EC looks forward to having a responsible and productive relationship with the Online Media Publishers. “We know you have a duty to inform the public by publishing stuff that is newsworthy including about the EC. If there is something not right about the EC please let it be published but act responsibly by reaching out to us to get our side of the story,” Rwakojo said. In agreement with Nile Post’s Edris Kigundu who had spoken earlier, Rwakojo said there are many areas of improvement the online media publishers must address for them to demystify negative perceptions accounting officers and decision makers like him some times have about them. “For instance it’s from today’s meeting that I have learnt that there is a difference between social media and the online media which you people represent. I now realize it’s the former that is synonymous with fake news and it’s your duty to conduct yourselves in a way that clearly distinguishes you from fake news that is mostly propagated by irresponsible social media users. Once you do that and eliminate quacks amongst yourselves, it’s going to be easy for accounting officers like myself to deal with you,” Rwakojo said as his right hand man Taremwa nodded in approval. At the end it was resolved that a committee with representation from the EC and the OMPA fraternity will have subsequent discussions on how to operationalize the relationship between the electoral body and the respective online media houses.
Touched by the seriousness the media gurus exhibited at the meeting, Rwakojo announced readiness for the EC to organize comprehensive training sessions on electoral laws and processes to further capacitate the media practitioners ahead of the 2021 election cycle. The online media houses represented included Mulengera news, Chimpreports, Nile Post, Matooke Republic, Trumpet news, The Ugandan, The Ugmirror, Business Focus and The Campus Bee among others.