Friday, 2 May 2008

The Makererean has Agriculture student as Chief editor

Students unhappy with Makererean management
Mubatsi Asinja Habati

Mr Kenneth Byarugaba, a third year Agricultural Engineering student, is the new Editor in Chief of The Makererean newspaper.

He was appointed by the guild information minister under the auspice of the guild constitution in March 2008.

The student community however is not pleased over concerns that the content of this paper won’t be accurate in the strict sense of mass media.

The Senior PRO of Makerere University, Mr Gilbert Kadilo, when asked why the Editor in Chief should not come from the Mass Communication department, said the paper would be in the right hands with time. He promised to discuss the matter with the university administration.

Meanwhile, the guild Information Minister, Mr Onesimus Twinamasiko, a Mass Communication student, argued that the appointment of the Editor in Chief was in line with the guild constitution. He denied any wrongdoing.

Most Mass Communication students have been raising eyebrows over this appointment as they suspect it was done on political grounds and fear that it may undermine the Integrity of the newspaper.

For the whole of last academic year, the guild leadership under Susan Abbo, the Makererean did not publish any copy.
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The death of The Makererean
This semester marks the anniversary of the untimely death of the Makererean, a bi- monthly university newspaper.

It is sad that a university of high standing as The Ivory Tower would look on as its newspaper falls sick and dies. One can’t believe that The Ivory Tower has operated without a newspaper of its own for a whole academic year.

A number of factors, as dissected by Macharia Muriuki and Asinja Habati, explain this phenomenon. Official ignorance: Chiefly, the lack of direct university administration’s input to the running of the newspaper is a curse that has be-lamed the paper over the years.

It has been playing a quasi-role by totally delegating the paper to the students’ guild.The guild, responsible for making rules and regulations governing the newspaper’s operation is the tip of the problem.

The constitution places too many hurdles for the smooth, objective and independent journalism which could have been achieved through the newspaper.The constitution: It gives the Minister for information, currently, Hon Twinamasiko Onesimus, absolute mandate in running The Makererean.

He is solely responsible for the production of the guild official news and the official publication, which he says is The Makererean.

This is where other loopholes arise. How can the minister be responsible for the production of The Makererean? A politician producing the university newspaper is absurd.The mandate, as outlined in the constitution states, “He/She should either edit the official publication or appoint an editor or editors from among members of the committee of information.”This is an affront to journalistic values and in particular to the Mass Communication students at The Ivory Tower.

The guild constitution does not specify that the Information Minister should have journalistic skills required in the management of its publication.Where, in a free media society has a politician been the editor of a community newspaper? Besides, how can we be sure of free media if the minister appoints the editor or editors, most of whom are his political bedmates? Being as it is, The Makererean is a guild leadership publication, not the Makerere community newspaper.The Editor–in-Chief: He is elected by the Guild Representative Council (GRC) members.

The minister assents to his/her appointment. Hon Twinamasiko adds that the Editor-in-Chief (another politician) enjoys the same rights and privileges as a minister.Lastly, in his mandate, the information minister will, “in conjunction with the university administration, arrange for the editing of The Makererean and other official publication.”

The constitution does not specify which administration with whom he’ll work. It doesn’t give reference to the relevant department or administration of the university either the Mass Communication department, the university PRO or the literature department that will help him run the paper.

This explains why the previous regime, under Hon. Abbo Susan chose Hon. Namuganyi Susan a civil engineer, as the Editor-in-Chief.
This set precedent for Hon. Rutaro’s regime, which appointed Hon Kenneth Byarugaba, an Agricultural student, rather than a Journalism student for the post.

In 2006/2007, some of our groupcritics joined The Makererean to revive it. The paper had been contracted to a Wandegeya based advertising firm, Media Flower to run it. The two issues they released were heavily criticized by the Makerere community including some lecturers.

This was raw demotivation to the long journey that had yet been started.Official negligence by the administration is a threat to the potential of young journalists at The Ivory Tower. It has sat and watched the paper go the dogs.

It shoulders the biggest blame for allowing the students’ guild to make rules which do not only reflect the interest of the paper, but also have no sense of journalistic objectivity. It has looked on as the guild uses the name of the institution to for its bulletins to masquerade as the official university newspaper. It is not.Where a government makes laws for the media, there’s no free media. This contravenes the tenets of the Universal Federation of Journalists.

The administration fails by allowing its Media related departments operate without a newspaper and having no stake at The Makererean unlike most serious communication departments around the globe.

The office of the PRO Makerere University has up to now not sought a quick fix to the problem facing The Makererean. The Senior PRO of Makerere University, Mr Gilbert Kadilo, when asked why the Editor-in-Chief should not come from the Mass Communication department, said the paper would be in the right hands with time. He promised to discuss the matter with the university administration.

As an alumni of this university and a journalist by profession, he should take drastic and expeditious measures to see to it that the unfavourable rules governing The Makerereans are done away with. Hon. Abbo’s administration (2007/2008), should apologise to the university for adding a nail on The Makererean’s by appointing a civil engineer as the Editor-in-chief.

There was no achievement as far as the publication of The Makererean is concerned.We learn from history. It is a yard stick for the future.

However, this seems alien at good old Ivory Tower. The Minister for Information, as a journalist in the offing has let down the university and his profession by making use of archaic guild rules. He keeps defending himself against constructive criticism using the same old constitution, which unfortunately, needs a thorough surgery.

1 comment:

  1. I do not know if it is too late to post a comment for the topic which was posted in 2008. I was once Editor in chief of the Makererean. We were able to produce because the Editor in Chief was elected by the Guild Representative Council therefore was the responsible person in charge. However, the Makererean has slowly died over the years because the Guild Presidents feel they are the boss because they have become dictatorial just like outside governments in the past, wanting to control news especially if the newspaper reports are not favourable to them. Ask Prof. Patrick Mangheni (the mathematician) for advice on how we used to do it, moreover without computers. Some of us used to spend nights in the printing room working on the paper which came out every two weeks. The only administrator involved was prof Kakoza who was head of law school who read through the articles to ensure there was no potential legal action. During my time he never changed even one word. The editorial board that I selected had a lot of students who were also reporters of papers outside campus. What about putting out a call to the whole student body to invite people to join the board, giving them criteria that would be used to seled them? It would bring on board people who are active and doers. The bigger the Board the better because they can be diivided in themese. During my time the minister of information had nothing to do with the Makerean. If that were the case then the Editor in chief would not have been elected by GRC. If the Editor in Chief is totally independent, s/he will be more successful, particularly if s/he has an active Deputy Editor in chief. So long.

    Immaculate Wamimbi