When Cameras Lied to the Country
April 29 was way past fool’s day but according to the Ugandan government, media houses decided to cordon off that day to ‘lie’ to their country about the brutal arrest of opposition leader, Kizza Besigye.
It’s coming to a month since I witnessed that event but the images just cannot part ways. The country was in shock and silence. The others who watched the televisions replays have not yet come to terms with the brutality that was involved.
The most dramatic though was the denial of the hooded man breaking into Besigye’s car with a hammer before dropping it inside the car and fleeing. He was caught on camera by both print and electronic media but government is hell-bent on calling a media fabrication, to tarnish its ‘good name.’
Topping the ‘liars’ list was NTV, WBS and Daily Monitor all local television stations and newspaper respectively whom government said are going to be investigated for ‘manipulating’ pictures of the arrest of Besigye.
Daily Monitor’s Managing Editor Daniel Kalinaki who is still answering charges of doctoring a letter by President Yoweri Museveni, published on August 2, 2009 (Monitor editors charged with forgery), still has to answer for the pictures that were published of the hooded man.
“Minister Matia Kasaija, (the ka-man) says we should be investigated for the hammer pictures. I shall be waiting for him or his delegates in my office on Monday morning (May 9). Please note, though, that firearms, hammers and pepper spray not allowed inside our premises,” read Kalinaki’s facebook status that day.
However none of the above mentioned media houses have ever since been summoned for investigation.
It’s the first time in my spell as a photojournalist that I’ve witnessed all media organizations in the country, both public and private, local and international jointly ‘lie’ to the country. And this open denial by government does not end with me.
“My pictures are not manipulated at all. They are a reflection of what happened on the ground. It’s unfortunate that government can come up and deny. It’s probably the first country in the world to have a government openly come and discredited credible work done by journalists in the presence of the public too.
Of course there is a group of government apologists who argue that the pictures could have been manipulated. Nevertheless, with the current level of hi-tech DSLR cameras (Digital Single Reflex), commonly used by photographers today, just one press of a button records every single detail of every picture taken; from time, date, camera type, mode, copyright, ISO, shutter speed. These are in built and can’t be altered however much a picture is manipulated.(The pictures published herein will try to show you what I am talking about. The original on the left and its information on the left-whether edited or not)
Though machines can’t be trusted they never lie, none of our cameras did.
“I work for the worlds’ largest multimedia and picture organization (Thompson Reuters) and our practice and ethics never bend. I am ready to defend my pictures. i feel very sorry for how unserious our government is; the very government supposed to protect us and be accountable to every Ugandan,” says James Akena a correspondent photographer with Reuters.
Isaac Kasamani, a photojournalist with Daily Monitor coffers with Akena “All the pictures that I took were never concocted. They showed what took place on the ground and it’s annoying for government to come up with such claims”.
As such the media has slapped a black out on all government activities until a formal apology is issued out to the journalist fraternity.
As photojournalists, we dare the government to come with all the proof they have that we actually manipulated pictures to suit our interests. It really hurts to tell the truth only for it to be turned against you. Let government come clean.