State Of the Nation Picture Review

President Yoweri Museveni gives hundreds of speeches every year. The State Of the Nation Speech however stands out to be the most keenly watched.

Why? The president through that speech goes on and on and on about the achievements of his government over the past year, the challenges, areas to address, etcetera, etcetera.

It’s also a harvest time for media to independently review the president’s performance over the past year. From the economy, to the health sector, education, security, among others.

Yesterday, the President was at the same platform again talking about the year before and the year ahead.

“Of course not all the things I talked about last year have been fulfilled because many of them take time, and in any case, the resource are limited,” President Museveni, said yesterday during his speech.

Let me not dwell much on the speech and more on my area of specialization-Photojournalism.

I am more interested on how the different media houses in Uganda reflected the president’s speech through their most important image of the day-The front page picture.

The Daily Monitor

The papers headline is “Museveni Lists 10 barriers to economic growth”

Picture Choice:

The Daily Monitor

In any picture, the President was always going to be the central subject. Daily Monitor chose to use a picture of President Museveni inspecting the guard of honour.

The composition was fairly good. The perspective was a bit good especially with policemen lined up on either side of the picture boundaries. The president’s face was gloomy, to some extent, a good reflection of the headline.


How many times have you seen the president inspecting a guard of honour? Like seriously, how many times? And how many more times. And look, the president was walking on one leg. The other for some reason was cut.

Unless it’s an absolutely unique moment, an ordinary picture of the president inspecting a guard of honour should never find its way to the front page.

The New Vision,


“Museveni Reports on 2012 Achievements”

Picture Choice:

The New Vision

A smiley president on the podium giving the actual speech. Perfect choice of picture. An achievement is a reflection of joy, laughter’s and enjoyment. The ambience is always calm and welcoming. This picture has it.

The New Vision In my opinion got just the right picture to go with the headline. It’s a positive headline, blended with a positively well-exposed looking president.


When you take away the headline, its just another boring smiley picture of the president. The composition is boring- positioning the president right in the middle of the frame. We’ve seen hundreds of this kind and this particular one does not stand out an inch different from the rest. In Photography, The rule of thirds is one of the most useful composition techniques. Used here, the picture would have looked somewhat fresh and different.

The Red Pepper:


“M7 Gives The Most Important Speech Of The Year Before His Ministers But; THEY SLEPT AGAIN”

Picture Choice:

Red Pepper

One of the biggest stories over the last 10 years in Uganda was by Red Pepper in 2009.

John Batanudde, Red Peppers’ photojournalist of the day shot close-ups of the Ministers sleeping as the president delivered what is regarded as one of the most important speeches of the year. The headline I remember read; “State Of the Nation” accompanied by a full page of mugshots of sleeping ministers.

It was fresh. It was shocking. It was unique. It was everything, a newspaper wished to have had on their front pages.

It caused a lot of uproar. There was even suggestion by Members of Parliament that media be booted out of the plenary section of parliament after Red Peppers’ colorful front page.

Fast-forward, 2013, the Paper attempted to bring back memories of that day in today’s copy. Big disappointment. It does not come close to even a quarter of the original idea.

No wonder “THEY SLEPT AGAIN” was way much bigger than the three pictures used combined.

The Observer

Insert Headline:

“Museveni: Student Loans Coming”

Picture Choice:

The Observer

The Papers choice was a picture of the president inspecting a guard of honour. The picture is not in anyway a reflection of promise.

Cutting some bit of the Presidents hut further killed the image. Unless it’s a close up shot, it’s never a good practice to slice off people’s bodies, especially the edges.

My verdict; One of those pictures you would run alongside a pictorial in the inside pages. It’s not a picture worth a front page and certainly not a picture that would sell copies.

On to 2014, these same pictures will find their way back to our front pages. Maybe the coming 12 months should help photo editors plan in advance what pictures exactly would genuinely reflect the state of the nation.

The president does not reflect the station of the nation. If he does, then not certainly at The Serena Hotel.

The condition of traders, health workers, farmers, drivers, midwives, in my opinion, paints a better picture when talking about  the state of the nation. Food for Thought maybe.

8 thoughts on “State Of the Nation Picture Review

  1. If one more newspaper splashes on its front page a picture of Maria Kiwanuka carrying that briefcase on the morning of Budget reading, I will puck. Good analysis thoug

    • Shifa, thats exactly what am talking about. The only time the budget picture changed was when the Syda Bbumba took over. From suits to dresses! And also maybe from Parliament to Serena. Otherwise, expect the same picture of the briefcase!

  2. Reminds me of the time a photo editor with a UK news paper put me to to task to explain why most of our newspaper pictures in Uganda are dull and nearly shot from the same angle. I fumbled but managed to find something to say, on second thoughts;

    1. Most of the pictures on the pages are being deccided by news editors and not photo editors.

    2. The shooters are failing to see the same frames differently so they continue regurgitating the same angles (less creativity).

    3. Political influence prompts some news paper to sacrifice creativity on picture choices for the pages – for instance u will find a picture of say, Kapere, on page 1, 4, 5…….surprisingly, all of them may be portraits and you feel like puk.

    4. But most importantly, most photo editors are so rigid and archaic that they require refresher training on contemporary photography. Have barely seen any Uganda news paper us abstract images that would, often, leave viewers gasping about the creativity of the shooter. They always love focussing on e subject itself even where it would necessary to do otherwise.

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