Just this month two Ugandan journalists were killed in two different incidents. Paul Kiggundu working for Top TV was killed by Boda Boda cyclists as he was covering their demonstration; the other Dickson Ssentongo was killed by unknown assailants on his way to work at Prime Radio in Mukono. Boda cyclists accused Kiggundu of spying for the police while much is yet to be known about who was behind Ssentongo’s murder. These are not only worrying trends but also show that the price of being a journalist in Uganda is once again going higher.

So when I read on a friend’s facebook wall last week about a new form issued by the National Resistance Movement (NRM), President Yoweri Museveni’s party to journalists who want to cover their presidential election campaign I was appalled. The status read:

“To cover the president’s 2011 campaigns I have to tell them who my grandparents are, my children, spouse, my village of origin.”

I may be too young not to know of the 1970s hunt down of people’s relatives that government deemed enemies but for something this message sent a chill down my spine.

On facebook, I tried to highlight this to understand from journalists and other friends what they thought of it and the comments ranged from this being a measure to protect the president in the face of increased terrorism threats to trying to ensure journalists do their job well.

The NRM recently held their primaries and they were largely marred by violence, bribery and mudslinging. There were reports of journalists being paid about Shs 50,000 for the coverage of different NRM cmaps. One of the comments I saw indicated that the NRM could be using these forms as a plot to exclude journalists who could be critical in their reporting of the coming campaigns. They have excluded such journalists in the past.

That would be bad but worse still I am concerned about the safety of journalists. A party collecting vital information that is not even kept by government departments worries me a lot. So I went ahead and looked for the form.

I was told this form has been circulated to all newsrooms by the Uganda Media Center, which should be doing government work but also largely benefits the ruling party in the spread of information. The center said whoever is going to cover President Museveni’s 2011 elections must fill it.

I was told New Vision “made it a MUST” for all journalists to put their particulars down whether they cover politics or not. And there was no room for rejecting the idea. I am also told that other private media houses have rejected the form. In what seems to be a tactical move may be to avoid foreign media outrage, foreign journalists have not been asked to fill in this form.

If reporters indeed hand in this information to the NRM party which is not right at all, it could be used by anyone for anything not excluding blackmailing journalists or hunting down your relatives if someone, even without the knowledge of the party heads, doesn’t agree with the reporter’s coverage.

The request of these details about reporters’ parents, home addresses, spouses and the parents of their spouses, their occupation, village, children and journalists’ close associates/ friends cannot be for any good.

This is not an issue that reporters should take in lightly.  For all of these details have nothing to do with how a journalist covers the country’s most important political process. This information can also be used way beyond the election period so therefore we cannot take the journalists safety for granted especially at time a when political events are becoming more polarized than before in the last 20 years.

Below is the form that I strongly believe puts a journalist at the mercy of the ruling party.

Below is the form that journalists are dreading.

PERSONAL PARTICULARS

Surname…………………………………………First name……………………………………………

Other names……………………………………………………………………………………………

Sex………………………………………………Marital status………………………………………..

Nationality………………………………………Permit No……………………………………………

Date of Birth…………………………………………………………………………………………….

a. Place of birth.Zone……………………………………………………………………………………

b.LC 1 Village…………………………………………………Chairman……………………………

c.LC 11……………………………………………………… …Chairman…………………………..

d.LC111…………………………………………………………Chairman…………………………

e.District…………………………………………………………LC V Chairman………………….

Present physical address

a. Zone………………………………………………………………………………………………

b.LC1 village……………………………………………………..Chairman…………………………

c.LC 11……………………………………………………………Chairman………………………..

d.LC111……………………………………………………………Chairman………………………

e.District………………………………………………………….LC V Chairman…………………..

f.Personal Tel.No………………………………………………………………………………………

B.FAMILY PARTICULARS

Father’s Name…………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Nationality……………………………………………………………………………………………

Place of birth…………………………………………………………………………………………

Village………………………………………………………………….Parish………………………

Sub county……………………………………………………………County………………………

District………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Mother’s Name…………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation………………………………………………………………………………………………

Nationality ………………………………………………………………………………………………

Place of birth……………………………………………………………………………………………

Village…………………………………………………………… Parish……………………………..

Sub county…………………………………………………………County……………………………

District………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Respondents Signature…………………………………………….Date………………………………

C.SPOUSES (Wife/Husband)

Spouses Name…………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation ………………………………………………………………………………………………

Nationality………………………………………………………………………………………………

Place of birth……………………………………………………………………………………………

Village…………………………………………………………………..Parish………………………

Sub county……………………………………………………………County…………………………

District………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Father’s Name…………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation………………………………………………………Nationality………………………….

Village……………………………………………………………Parish……………………………….

Sub county………………………………………………………County………………………………

District…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Mothers Name…………………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation………………………………………………………………………………………………

Village…………………………………………………………Parish………………………………….

Sub county ……………………………………………………County………………………………. ..

District………………………………………………………………………………………………….

D.CLOSE ASSOCIATES/FRIENDS

a. Name…………………………………………………………………………………………………

LC1………………………………………………………….Chairman………………………………

LC11…………………………………………………………Chairman………………………………

LC111………………………………………………………..Chairman……………………………….

District…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

b.Name…………………………………………………………………………………………………

LC1…………………………………………………………Chairman……………………………….

LC11………………………………………………………..Chairman……………………………….

LC111………………………………………………………Chairman……………………………….

District…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Respondents signature………………………………………Date…………………………………….

E.EMPLOYMENT RECORD.

Employers                                      location                         Date            Appointment   held

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Are you or have you ever been a staff of any security-intelligence organization in Uganda

Answer Yes or No……………………………………………………………………………………

Name of Organization…………………………………………………………………………………

Date of joining…………………………………………………………………………………………

Title/Appointment………………………………………………………………………………………

Period served and dates…………………………………………………………………………………

Respondents signature………………………………………………….Date………………………….

Supervised by…………………………………………………………Date………………………….