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The Press Gaggle. There’s a reason why they are called that. And I don’t think it is a vote of confidence in their ability to do a professional job.
Today the Minister of Disease, Stephen Malinga, visited Bundibugyo with a group of the Usual Suspects – New Vision, Daily Monitor, WBS, NTV, NBS and UBC. He and the journalists, together with some senior officials in his Ministry, flew into Bundibugyo aboard a UPDF helicopter.
While the government team appears to have been properly briefed on the situation on the ground, the journalists clearly believed their own lies about the magnitude – or lack thereof – of the Ebola situation. They were afraid to approach the local population for fear of … I don’t know what … breathing in the virus maybe? And they shared with each other their worst fears of contracting the virus, dying on the job and leaving their families in the poor house. Stuffed in their pockets and camera bags were ugly white surgical gloves, which they didn’t hesitate to pull out until a group of children started shouting Muhyembe! Muhyembe! (Ghost! Ghost!)
Malinga played his part for the cameras. It’s his job. He’s a politician and has learned how to act like one. For all intents and purposes, he didn’t say anything new. He didn’t even pay tribute to the 5 medical workers who have died of Ebola by mentioning them by name. But he knew what he had come for and on when the protective gear, the mandatory handshake with an Ebola victim and the required look of pain (or whatever that look was).
I asked a couple of journalists whether they would like to spend the night in Bundibugyo with me to study the situation more subce I’m traveling towards the Democratic Republic of Congo early tomorrow where one Ugandan was beaten as he tried to cross the border on account of bringing with him death and disease. Plus a couple of cuties I met from the medical sector are cooking a meal tonight to say goodbye to their staff who have been in the district for several weeks and I thought it would a really good opportunity to chat with people with an insight into the epidemic. I even offered to buy lunch. But no one was willing to stay.
“Me to stay in Bundibugyo? Shiya! I am not suicidal.”
“As far as I can see, the story here is done. We know the figures and we have a few facts. There is nothing more that the Media Center can’t tell us.”
“Gwe are there even hotels in this place?”
And off they went on the coattails of Malinga and back to Kampala. Nothing new was learned. Nothing important was gained. Expect the reports to be much the same. Shallow and empty. Just like the journalists who write them.