Tales of a newspaper born from humble beginnings and later metamorphosing into a powerhouse in impactful and bold journalism; dominated the discourse at the high-level public dialogue held at Kampala Serena Hotel to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Daily Monitor.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo (right) hands over a gift to one of the co-founders of the Monitor, Mr Wafula Oguttu (centre). Left is the NMG-U board chairperson, Prof Samuel Sejjaaka (left). PHOTO/ ISAAC KASaMANI
Similarly, invited guests that included the Daily Monitor management, founders, associates, diplomats, politicians, and religious leaders, among others, expressed optimism that a Diamond Anniversary will be possible, only if the paper remains consistent on editorial principles, while adapting to the emerging trends.
The Monitor, now the Daily Monitor, was founded by seven, then budding journalists and produced its first issue on July 31, 1992.
In this first issue, the newspaper pledged to be independent, invest in democratic practices, observe human rights, stick to the truth, and accommodate all schools of thought.
Yesterday’s dialogue was themed; “60 years of Independent Uganda. Monitor and Nation Building’’
Mr Wafula Oguttu, the founding Managing Director, and Editor-In-Chief, celebrated the brand that has upheld these values and the impact it has had on the nation and beyond.
Mr Oguttu attributed three decades of unrivalled influential journalism to resilience, and a supportive audience even in times of pressure, including two closures by the state.
“Sometimes we hear The monitor is an enemy paper. That is a label we got because we offered space for everybody when there were no others to offer that space and the government, because I was a member of the National Resistance Movement, and a friend of the President, they expected us to be a different paper, but we said we shall maintain the independence and be the paper that talks to everybody, that stands firm for people’s rights,” he said.
Left to right: Senior office manager David Mukwaya, NMG-U board chair Prof Samuel Sejjaaka, founding directors David Ouma Balikoowa and Mr James Serugo, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, founding director Richard Tebere’s wife Christine Tebere, NMG-U board members Susan Nsibirwa and Dr Emily Maractho, founding managing director Wafula Oguttu, and Mr Robby Muhumuza, a board member at NMG-U, during the Monitor at 30 dialogue at the Kampala Serena Hotel on August 4, 2022. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI
He added: “The Monitor does not hate government…the Monitor wants its independence to comment on wrong things whether it is government or Opposition. That is what we are built for. We are partners in the struggle for democracy and nation building. We are not enemies,” he added.Nation Media Group –Uganda (NMG-U) Managing Director Tony Glencross said the impactful journalism is a worthwhile outcome for the difficult endurances.
“Being an MD in a media company is not easy. You get phone calls as early as 2am from disgruntled CEOs and government officials. These moments are overshadowed by the good moments and the impactful stories you read in The Monitor…the paper has made a significant impact in the development of Uganda; including holding power to account, and promoting education, personal finance and others,” he said.
Prof Samuel Sejjaaka, the NMG-U Board chairperson, said the Daily Monitor has survived because of its commitment to the profession, and appealed to the government to desist from extreme actions such as closing the media house to enable a good working relationship for nation building.
Reminiscing of a humble beginning of this publication in a windowless office with an abandoned sofa set, Mr Oguttu paid homage to the people who lent the young, determined, but capital striped founders a helping hand, including former New Vision Boss William Pike, who printed the first issue of the newspaper, then The Monitor, on credit, and Mr Sudhir Ruparelia, the first advertiser.
“Yes, we did not have the money, we had the brains. We did not even have a typewriter, but we were determined. There were seven (founders) and 10 volunteers who came to work with us and for six months, we worked for nothing because we did not have any money to pay… People who worked at The Monitor almost for nothing. They simply worked for the profession,” he said.
The Founding Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Mr Wafula Oguttu (left), and former Daily Monitor journalists Gawaya Tegulle (centre), and Jim Mugunga share a light momenton August 4, 2022. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE
Mr Oguttu further celebrated the role of the publication in shaping the media landscape through training and mentoring professionals.
“It is not accidental that four press secretaries of the President have come from the Daily Monitor. Which other organisation has given the President four press secretaries? That is The Monitor because we set out clearly to train journalists and we have done a lot of interesting things,” he said.
The Victoria Hall at Serena was yesterday overflowing with Monitor old boys and girls that have gone on to occupy top positions in government and other fields. But with the survival of traditional media now challenged by emerging technologies, social media, citizen journalism and changing business models, the paper has had an enormous task of ensuring a future of quality journalism.
Mr Oguttu tipped the current managers and journalists to remain consistent on the truth, amid a plethora of often unverified, inaccurate news.
Truth slogan. “Thirty years is a great milestone and you have survived infant mortality, you have survived the recklessness that can kill you as a youth, and now entering into adult life. I urge you to remain truthful as your slogan states and hold power to account…’’ Counsel David Mpanga, deputy chairman of Bowmans (AF Mpanga Advocates).
Rights. ‘‘There is a need to focus on inclusiveness because increasingly people are feeling excluded, it could be imaginary and sometimes real. So continue shining a light on inconsistencies and human rights abuses…’’ Prof Monica Chibita, the Dean Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication at UCU.
Innovation. “To whom much is given, much is required. Monitor has been given 30 years and that is the power, so how do you use that power as journalists. Innovate and remain relevant. Innovation, innovation and innovation to remain profitable,” Ms Susan Nsibirwa, board chairperson of African Centre for Media Excellency.