Coverage of VP Bukenya’s son’s death: Can you force a country to mourn?

For the last 20 or so hours I have been involved in a discussion on my facebook page. it  was my reaction to the newspaper coverage of Vice President’s son’s death. First of all I do not in any way intend to say that there shouldn’t have been coverage, my focus and the focus of the debate is on the presentation of the news and the vocabulary used to sort of show like this was a national mourning instead of the media utilising a chance to highlight causes of road carnages that take thousands of lives in Uganda. And the recipient of my rant -if you want to call it that-was Daily Monitor for obvious reasons- ownership and a better level of editorial independence.

If you follow the discussion you will realise that the newspaper reinforced hat the portrayal of Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s loss as national in their first report about the death of former army commander Maj.Gen. James Kazini.

Below is the text from the Kazini story.

“The girlfriend has been arrested and taken for questioning at Kampala Central Police Station. Mourners, among them military officers and relatives, trickled in to the Namuwongo residence as the shocking news spreads.
The country was preparing for the burial later Tuesday of vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s son, Bryan, who died at the weekend after suffering serious head injuries in a motor crash.”

Read through the discussion which I have copied from my facebook page and give your thoughts because I believe the best way for the media to improve is to be self –analysts  and critics.

Rosebell Kagumire

everyday many ugandans die in an accident we have lost MPs and leader opposition in parliament was just out of hospital instead of the damn editors and newmen using these times to bring out the real cause of these accidents and highlightin the needed changes they r busy writting without shame how a vp lost an heir. please dont mean to be mean but this doesnt need to be a leading story for both dailies.

21 hours ago · Delete

Bbc Karol Mama-Lover

I noticed too but assumed they did not have news.

20 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

BBC, i like ur alertness there’s a hell lot of news ugandans need to know about and it makes me sick that people settle to easy way out of wat to make headlines.

20 hours ago · Delete

Bbc Karol Mama-Lover

Tomorrow’s headlines will be Kazini (R.I.P) & then the next day will be the woman who’s done him in…I think to these guys news is ‘ekyipya’, not actual news.

20 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

true. proper kiwani. we need some stylinup. how u be?

20 hours ago · Delete

Bbc Karol Mama-Lover

I’m muzuri, discussing this new ‘news’ in office. You should hola when u r back (if ever lol)…oba u are around?

20 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

still in centro america. will be bek just like the governator

19 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

this part of a Daily Monitor story about Kazin’s death made me mutter Jesus christ son of God with a sign of cross at 1 am: “The girlfriend has been arrested and taken for questioning at Kampala Central Police Station… The country was preparing for the burial later Tuesday of vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya’s son, Bryan, who died at the weekend after suffering serious head injuries in a motor crash.”

Really the country was preparin really really?????????????????

19 hours ago · Delete

Bbc Karol Mama-Lover

No wonder pple out there think we are…I can’t find the right word. Anyone would think everything is at a standstill till then.

19 hours ago · Delete

Doreen Ahumuza

Question is ” Who is the country here????”

19 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

i think the monitor editor owes some answers atleast for referin to our country besides all the sloppiness

19 hours ago · Delete

Henry Mukasa

Rosebell, get real… Bukenya is VP and as such anything that affects his life like bereavement, attack on him by mafia… could by extension affect the performance of his duties and hence national news! Did you know that Sebbanga made front news for Bukedde? The rationale is that this boy who was saved from starvation has not survived death, afterall. Seems Costa Rica beaches have put you in confort zone yet I know you as an aggressive person…

19 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

henry i must sya am disappointed that u can defend a heardline like this. bukenya loses heir. realllly is this the journalism we studied. if the mafia as we know he imagines it when it best suits him and only to take back him words was 4 rio then we wd have reason to make a death of a son of vp a national story. so u think the country is preparing. hmmmm i am soooooo amazed.

19 hours ago · Delete

Daniel Kalinaki

Rosie, what would you have led with if you were the editor?

19 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

Daniel, there are mllion stories ugandans are experiencing. i am wondering if bukenya losin an heir is of national importance. it wd be if we are in mornachy and he’s in line to rule us. i know there r such days as bad days in the newsroom but to try to make a nation believe that bukenya’s loss is national as if no other ugandan is dying -right now… Read more probably in road accidents doesn’t seem reasonable to me. and to add that line in 2day’s story about the death of kazini as if to equate both deaths (in terms of impact on the nation) is even worse. his loss is not heavier than the ones we see everyday on ugandan roads may be we shd make everyday headlines for every ugandan life lost in an accident. unless u want to tell me the cause of death wasnt an accident which i hven’t seen in the report.

18 hours ago · Delete

Mike Imondoyapapa Shimoli

i agree

18 hours ago · Delete

Gaaki Kigambo

Daniel, part of the larger (and worrying) issues the DM and NV headlines reveal is what someone on here has captured so well, and that is newspapers are looking for what’s new (Kibyaki), and now what’s the news.

And for as long as we run after our so-called news makers I don’t see how we’re going to avoid such bland headlines, or news. Because what that essentially means is that we must pick whatever they drop and sometimes it can be really something ‘juicy’ and at most times it’s likely going to be something stale.

So in asking what DM could have led with, I think the answer is not directly in the alternative stories the paper carried behind Bukenya mourning a dead heir. It is much more in the stories that perhaps never got covered because the paper was preoccupied with running after its usual news makers, or savers of the day if you will. … Read more

The challenge is to go back and figure what really are the issues that Ugandans care about or you can interest them in and then get on those and ‘force’ our news makers to explain themselves on those issues.

Of course, there will always be occasional events breaking that need to be covered, but if the newspapers’ primary focus is on those events, we’re not setting the agenda (as we like to puff ourselves) and nobody really cares about us. We’ll always be running after our ‘news makers’ and they’ll dictate, directly or otherwise, what gets into the paper.

18 hours ago · Delete

Daniel Kalinaki

There is a tinge of merit in the argument that some days the news coverage is dictated by personalities and what they say or do. It is also true that some days those personalities and what they say or do does not change the price of bread.

Yet it is important not to underestimate the importance of human interest as a news value. One is also … Read more encouraged to measure news outlets over space (beyond the headline) and time, not on the basis of a single edition or so.

This is as important in the velvet-lined couches of academe as it is in the blood-stained trenches of journalistic practice.

18 hours ago · Delete

Gloria Sebikari

Rosebell, remember our first news writing class (Bernard Tabaire sh’d be proud of me!) where one of the characteristics of news is prominence and human interest??? Well the VP is no. 2 in the country so almost anything about and affecting him is news!!!! Disagreeable but true. Prominent people are news in themselves.

12 hours ago · Delete

Rosebell Kagumire

@Daniel & Glo, the main point of this argument is not that you cannot cover the vp’s son’s death but no u have to and i read the news on sunday on your website. but to make this the story worthy of a headline really i dont see how? did his the country know this youngman (may his soul rest in peac)? i still believe we can do better than headline … Read morethe death of the heir. and beyond this being a headline the way the story is written to try to creat a sort of national loss (dont get me wrong every death causes a loss to uganda) moment that doesnt exist is not acceptable. and putting prominently the heir part one would think we are saudi arabi and the young man was in line for power. we can do and we (ugandan journalists) are indeed better than this.

12 hours ago · Delete

Joe Powell

This doesn’t necessarily make it right but don’t you think it would be on the front page on every newspaper in America if something were to happen to Joe Biden’s son?

7 hours ago · Delete

Gaaki Kigambo

Joe, the story about Bukenya’s son dying can make the headlines. Personally I have no problem with that. It has shock effect enough to knock off any other story. But a follow-up lead that Bukenya is mourning his heir is totally off. That assumes an importance about the son that actually doesn’t exist, or better still was used up in the first headline story.

If the follow up was about what type of person Bukenya’s son was, what were his aspirations in relation to his father’s claims, what was he (academically) qualified in, what percentage of other people his age have died in similar circumstances etc, basically stuff that advance the story, then maybe a story about him would have qualified to lead again. But as it is, the story is static, its obvious (what would you expect a man to say of his first born?), its weak, and it demonstrates what you get when u tag at the coattails of those you’ve ringed off as news makers.

And that’s why I feel its unfair for one to make insinuations that some of us who advance these contrary views to such choice of stories that make headlines are doing so because of the comforts academe affords us. Those kinds of insinuations assume we haven’t been (or aren’t) journalists in our lives and we don’t know how the real world of reporting and putting good stories actually is. … Read more

Can we then also make the same assumptions and insinuations about the academe comforts that are currently being made here about someone who a few years ago penned a brilliant series about how Ugandan journalism was bastardised?

I think its important we resist the temptation to inject such insinuations/assumptions into otherwise worthy debates and discussions like this one because we risk being exactly like the people whose feet we like to hold to the fire.

5 hours ago · Delete

William Tayeebwa

Hmmmmmm, great debate. I will assume the status of Judge and listen impartially to all sides. Keep it up.

4 hours ago · Delete


14 thoughts on “Coverage of VP Bukenya’s son’s death: Can you force a country to mourn?

  1. I got lost during the debate but I think we should mourn for the losses. As long as death occurs, sorrow should be there. And then we should make sense of the sorrow and of the loss.

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  3. Well Nevender, the debate is on the media not the loss in itself. like you say as long as there’s death there will be sorrow but who’s sorrow is it and why shd the media tell you whom or claim you’re mourning people you aren’t. As you must have noted in the posts we are not saying this is not a story to report about but i am questioning the place it’s given trying to portray the tragedy for Bukenya’s family as a national tragedy.

  4. Rita says:

    It’s a sad death, but i cannot help but feel kind of sorry for his family in how he died and the circumstances surrounding the death, abit embarrassing as well.

    Unfortunately, he has been serving in a government that is really getting to people’s nerves and is beyond corrupt, and personally, i do not feel like his death being publicised and made out like a great loss to a country makes sense. Why should the country moan him? His family, yes, because it is always sad to lose a loved one. Public holiday worthy?(not that they would give one, just saying). Not for me.

  5. This is what we Ugandans have accepted, President Museveni says he will personally investigate the death of Bukenya’s son next day seven people died and over 30 were seriously injured in an accident involving a Kalita bus on the Mubende-Fort Portal highway. Could you ‘request’ (since he wont come out to offer his great investigative skills to ordinary ugandans) that he personally investigates this death also then we will have him say Uganda still ‘needs’ him until he’s 100 (for now he has put his retirement age at 75.)
    Read about the accident here: http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/700880
    And i hope the media puts this to him.

  6. Rosebell,the same way you cover public figures even in circumstances that are ‘so private’ making them the laughing stock of everyone,is the same level of coverage and honour you should accord their souls when they are departed in such inhumane circumstances…..
    To give Bukenya Bryan a worthhile send off,was worth it in every respect just as it was worth it for Monitor or Vision or Observer to lead with stories about circumstances under which he died and the last respects(i will call them’colour stories’,unfortunately.
    For us,who had accurate and first hand information about the young man,we knew that had his life not been taken so early,he was gradually gaining the capacity that would have brought about change in every way(stop road carnage,political changes that would have affected millions in a way,So,in that sense,he is a single soul but his death,as a young person with great -great potential,represents the death of thousands Ugandans who have no voice or platform…..So, his death is a national issue in that respect…Orton Kiishweko,Dar es salaam

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  8. Orton, my point of discussion is not that the story was not worth the respect. the discussion is not even that the story shouldn’t have been covered. this is about the media trying to portray the death as national and just reporting that the president is going to personally investigate the death without questioning such statements. Like you said indeed who knows what this young man would have done for the country just like who knows me and you have great-great potential to do good for the country if given the platform. I find something important you said that in many ways his death represents the death of thousands Ugandans who have no voice or platform this is very true. But unfortunately we didnt see that discussion in the media and that’s what am saying that road accidents have claimed way too many lives and his just a drop in our very big ocean of deaths that happen everyday and are not about to end. So sayin that Bunkenya lost his heir and not going further to relate that death to ordinary people is not what the media after this years should be doing. Whether it was an accident or another -hand (as the president seems set for a fresh invesigation) many ugandans have gone before Bryan in this way and we can’t only just cover his death. 7 dead and 30 injured today, most of these people have no money to pay medical bills and if they are disabled as a result of the accident they are going to live condemned lives so these are times to go beyond just death of only ‘big’ people much as I respect their families and their grief.

  9. Rita says:

    When Uganda has BIG problems like lack of malaria medicine in hosptitals (maybe the situation has changed now, i don’t know), that is bad. How much publicity do these things that are so essential get?

    But everyday Uganda is becoming westernised, it is about what sells the papers not what is important or essential. The hope keeps fading away everyday and i do not see it changing. We are trapped in a cycle which is blinding. Museveni will investigate this death, it will get more headlines that take away from more important issues that could be fed to the public. It is going to become a justice Sebutinde issue, how corruption was investigated and culprits uncovered, but nothing was actually done about it. In this case, this kind of publicity is not necessary, but it sells the papers and make museveni look ‘active and caring’ i guess.

  10. Twilly says:

    Rosebell, finally the self-appointed Judge – hahahaha: as usual, your blood is boiling on the right issue. But as someone who has worked in newsrooms and on copy, you certainly know the impediments occasioned by production routines/deadlines, the legacy of Western news values e.g. prominence of political personalities, space limitations, as well as sleaziness on the part of our colleagues not to probe beyond events. All these issues combine into a deadly trap where journalists are unable to focus on issues and processes. What would be helpful, and some journalists like Kalinaki sometimes do so, is to build a profile of background information on every issue of national importance, in this case road accidents, and what has been done at policy/operational level. Our national malaise is that we are excellent at verbosity and not at acting. Our Rwandan neighbours are the opposite. Journalism should be holding our leaders accountable by shinning a constant spotlight on persistent unsolved issues. Why should we continue to have these many road carnages? What was done after the previous accident? Our media is so bad with followups on issues; this despite the excellent bleed we now have in all newsrooms. I taught at Butare in Rwanda and now here in Canada and I can assure you the talent we have in Uganda is way on the top. Yet, we are unable to put that talent to better use by not being “event reporters” and rather “followup/processes reporters” to shine a spotlight on the interconnectedness of events. Something has to change, but we have to put our brains together to figure out how to effect that change!

  11. Great points to note about the media we just need to do more. And much as the American media has made progress you know it was the worst in covering issues like Iraq and it has so many shortfalls that we cant fix our eyes on it or judge ourselves by it’s standards all the time. We don’t need to be like them reporting Bush rhetoric with no sieving. Much as we are not at war, the issues we tackle in our media everyday are our little wars so we need to be self-analytical. As for the accidents on our reports it a whole katogo(mix) of reasons. Ofcourse many of ‘us’ are irresponsible drivers and we need to change this but i ask myself what drives people to this recklessness? roads have remianed the same narrow ones much as traffic on our roads is increasing everyday. That high way to Gulu now has many vehicles headed for south Sudan. we have drivers with no licence or they will bribe their way to get it. DMCs are on our roads. no proper policing to get all these drivers they are arrested they either pay a bribe or a fine and they come back to the road.

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