Police relations with media needs fine tuning

Some of the institutions in this country are not about to master the media relations formula. Or could it be that they still struggle when it comes to understanding and therefore estimating the role of the media in society?

Some of the institutions in this country are not about to master the media relations formula. Or could it be that they still struggle when it comes to understanding and therefore estimating the role of the media in society?

Take for example the Internal Security Ministry which organised a press conference yesterday in order to highlight its achievements in the recent past, including the general decline in crime rate. And that was a step forward in the direction of fulfilling the information dissemination obligations to the masses.

However, there was, conspicuously to us and our readers, a step taken backwards: the two most frequently read newspapers in the country – the daily The New Times and its sister paper, tri-weekly Izuba Rirashe – were the most notable absentees at the conference. What could have been the reason behind their isolation?

One possible reason is that someone in the ministry’s public relations office, especially if they are new in their appointments, might have genuinely forgotten, assuming they are not yet on top of their jobs.

The second reason, and the most likely at that, could be that we as a media outlet were being punished for having pestered the ministry to divulge information relating to the recent suspension of three senior police officers. 

Commissioner General of Police Andrew Rwigamba, CID chief Costa Habyara and the head of the Police Training School Lambert Sano were relieved of their duties last Wednesday, following a presidential directive. Sano and Habyara have also been doubling as chair and deputy respectively, for the Police Force Tender Committee.

The New Times published the story a whole four days late, delay having resulted from uncertainty on the part of the police as to whether the suspensions should be made public at all.

The minister clarified at the televised conference that the services of the CGP and the other two were suspended and not terminated. Notably he did not say for what reason.

Owing to the highest positions the three held in the force, simply confirming their suspension without giving a hint of cause, at least in broad terms, leaves a lot to be desired.

The minister did not even categorically state that investigations are taking place; he only said that it was a possibility. This approach cannot be effective in quelling speculation – it can only fuel it.   

Ends

 

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