The media should serve the national interest, according to an opinion piece in Uganda's New Vision. But these days, the local media seem excessively focused on sex journalism.
A few minutes before Dr. Ezra Suruma read his national budget speech, MPs from opposition political parties staged a walk-out on account that the Police had previously mistreated some MPs.
The merit or demerit of their protestation notwithstanding, the walk-out was untimely, inappropriate, unnecessary and, therefore, regrettable. Politics at its best is about competition for ideas and policy.
Walking out on an issue of deep national interest is not good politics. But why did my colleagues, who walked out, underplay the fact that the classical triad of Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, had all gathered together to listen to Suruma deliver the national budget upon which hangs so much that could change lives of millions of Ugandans?
The Ugandan media has also not been any different. There is now more scope for wide-ranging public discourse than has ever been in the entire history of the country. This is essential for democratic governance. But what are we getting from some media sections?
There have been cases when Uganda's national interests (security, economic, social) have been threatened by poor journalism and whenever a mediahouse concerned has been challenged by the Government, some media interests have gone up in arms as if to protect their own.
Protection of our country's interests requires us to have a media that is professionally inclined and motivated by a desire to protect those interests.
A good quality media is not only vital for democracy; it is good for the soul of Uganda. But what are the facts now? If we take the print media as an example, its growth in circulation and sales has not necessarily gone along with growth in terms of quality.
Nowadays, even hitherto serious newspapers have 'discovered' that giving more space to sex journalism is good for increasing sales.
The threat to abandon serious coverage of issues of national development at a time that the Government is grappling with the quest to make Uganda a better place for its people has left many Ugandans concerned about their future.
The basis of their concern is the fact that most Ugandans put high premium on God, traditional ethics, values, decency and acceptable standards of behaviour, all of which are the bedrock of our survival and development.
Spurred on by a barely regulated broadcast media, some newspapers have become alarmingly sensational and are churning gutter journalism, which is harmful to our nation's soul.
They are on a mission designed to programme our minds to tolerate, among others, decadent and dangerous sexual orientations.
As if this is not enough, our country is divided between forces of integration and harmony and of disintegration and chaos. It is also divided between those who choose to live with the pain of the past and others who choose the promise of the future.
Our motivation must be to have a belief that the future can be better than the past and each individual has a personal moral obligation to make it so.
Having come this far as a country, we must not allow Uganda to titter on a precipice of immorality and past instability. We must choose to go forward into the future together as a dignified and united people or else we will all be limited in what we achieve.
A strong Uganda requires a resurgent sense of community, a strong sense of mutual obligation and a conviction that we cannot pursue our individual interests independent of the needs of our fellow citizens.
Sadly, the imperative for conducting higher standards as a pre-requisite for having a strong nation is not a concern of some sections of our media. It is a tall order for them to overcome but for many others, it should not be.
This article first appeared in New Vision on 3 July 2008.