Government’s influence on reporting political conflict: An analysis of the 2006, 2011 and 2016 presidential elections in the Observer Newspaper
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This study set out to examine government’s influence on reporting political conflict in Uganda’s print media, using The Observer newspaper as the case study with focus on the election years of 2006, 2011 and 2016. The study was guided by three specific objectives: to compare and contrast news reporting on political conflict during the 2006, 2011 and 2016 presidential elections; to establish how the relationship between the government and The Observer affects reporting political conflict in the newspaper; and to find out how journalists address government influence. The study invoked the agenda setting theory in connection with how the government sets the agenda through influencing the political stories covered during the elections. The study used a case study design and predominantly employed a qualitative approach, with primary and secondary data sources. It employed in-depth- interview as the main instrument and content analysis. Purposive sampling was used in the study. The study established that in 2006, articles were published the way they were sent to the newspaper unlike in 2011 and 2016 where the government had communication teams whose job was to edit article before publication. The 2006, 2011 and 2016 presidential elections, were marred with incentives given to journalists most especially 2011 and 2016, incentives affected the way journalists reported stories favoring one side over another. Journalists were also intimidated through raids on the newspaper which emerged prominent this clear influenced the way they reported on political conflict during elections. As a way to navigate the influence, balanced reporting and training were cited as the solutions. The study concludes that Uganda has failed to establish a legitimate, strong and coherent association at the state level-mainly due to the political situation and journalism as profession is not free and independent but rather politically affiliated. The study, therefore, recommended the establishment of professional associations of journalists to defend and to promote professional standards of journalism.