By John Muto-Ono p’Lajur
November 18, 2016
When Moses Odokonyero, the chairman/president of Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), challenged us to write something for NUMEC website I thought I should pen this piece of history since I was part of journalists who formed it and how NUMEC has changed since conception in 1993 the way I see it today.
When I returned from detention at Luzira in 1988, I was an ardent reader of newspapers from Ome Stores which is located along Jomo Kenyatta Road, just opposite the Gulu Main Market on Atanga Family building. I was already interested in journalism, having tried twice to join the profession but failed.
There were three major newspapers by then: The New Vision, the Shari ‘at and the Weekly Topic. I would always come to Ome Stores to compare how the three newspapers are covering the events unfolding in northern Uganda as far as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency was concerned.
Somehow I didn’t like how New Vision was running stories from the war as some facts are always missing from their narratives like casualties of government side and they would tend to rejoice over the deaths of LRA suspects, which were usually captured civilians caught in crossfire. I loved the way Weekly Topic and Shari ‘at were reporting.
When the Monitor joined the media industry around September 1992, I fell in love with their reporting style instantly. I did not hesitate to apply for the position of a FULL TIME CORRESPNDENT with the Monitor when opportunity knocked and on February 8, 1993, I got my appointment letter.
At that time Rupiny, the lwo language sister paper of the New Vision, opened its office on plot 1/3 Queens Avenue in Gulu town, just behind former Homeland booking office. I remember Pelegrine Otonga was in charge of the Office while Miss Gloria Laker Obwoyo maintained cleanliness of the office. This was where “Gulu Press Club”, the precursor of NUMEC, was born one morning. There was just one borrowed table, a chair and a typewriter belonging to Otonga.
We had to change the name to NUMEC after need arose to register it as a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) to carter for the entire greater northern Uganda affected by the insurgency and cattle rustling.
Our primary interest, then, was how to disseminate the true picture of what was happening in northern Uganda and see how the international community would intervene and bring the war to an end. Scoop was not part of our language but would share tips. I am glad that armed conflicts have ended and there is relative peace in the last ten years. I say Bravo to NUMEC and other partners.
During my tenure with the Monitor, I also learnt a bit of their history-how a group of disgruntled six journalists who were working for the Weekly Topic, decided to come together and start the Monitor Publications Limited. They began from a rented premise on De Winton Road opposite the National Theatre. Today, the Monitor is an empire occupying their own building, employing thousands of people, including vendors. The rest is history.
Recently I was privileged to attend an eye opening training of a few of us, journalists, by one of our partners-the “Unwanted Witness” in Gulu town; that if we could begin to attract readers to our refurbished website, then we could also attract advertisers to the site they would then pay us handsomely.
After the training, I posted a piece on our Google groups this week, challenging all of us that if we could make NUMEC website attractive to both our followers and advertisers, then we could mint real money, which will in turn benefit us all, just as the Monitor directors did more than two decades ago.
It takes will, to begin the first step to riches. The sky should be our limit in this dream to transform our lives.
Mr. John Muto-Ono p’Lajur reports for the Black Star News based in New York and also a blogger: mutonoblog.wordpress.com.