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20 Months Without pay: City journalist, Kyomugisha, sacked for demanding Shs 27 million

Flavia Kyomugisha is a 32-year-old journalist and former employee of Good News Television, located in Mbarara City. In March 2023, she was suspended from her workplace by her supervisor for demanding her salary, which had accrued for 20 months.

A mother of three, Kyomugisha became the breadwinner two years ago after a leg injury rendered her husband incapacitated and unable to take care of family responsibilities. Unfortunately for her, the salary she was banking on to care for her three children and husband was not paid by her employer for over 20 months. The money had accumulated to Shs 27 million.

Kyomugisha explains: “On June 1, 2021, I signed a contract with GNTV where the company committed to give me a salary of Shs350,000 per month for news reporting and editing. However, I did not receive any pay, although I was delivering on my work as stipulated in my contract.”

Without a copy of her contract, it has been hard for her to demand what is due to her. “After signing the contract, I was not handed a copy. I took it lightly and believed that they would pay me as per the document since it is a religious organization. I did not have any legal advice at the time; I would have demanded a copy for myself.”

After several pleas to her supervisor, Kyomugisha was suspended for attempting to incite workmates to strike over delayed salaries.

“When I went to ask my bosses about my salary, they warned me about [complaining too much], which would incite coworkers at the station. This is why I resorted to taking my issue to social media, “says Kyomugisha in this video link.

Kyomugisha took her fight to social media, where she narrated her story to fellow journalists who were able to help her with handouts as well as necessities like food to take care of her family.

According to Kyomugisha, she reported the case to the Uganda Human Rights Commission Mbarara branch, who later wrote to the television management, but she was informed that she would have to wait for a response within 21 days.

It was during this time that Kyomugisha was given an eviction notice by her landlord for non-payment of rent. “My landlord at the time threw me and my family out of the house, and I had to share a single room with a friend.”

Later, GNTV called her and paid her Shillings 2 million, which she used to settle her rent arrears as well as lease a garden where she spent most of her days, hiding away from her friends and hungry children. Kyomugisha also suffered from depression.

“I was depressed, and I decided to always spend my days in the garden so as to deal with the stress and forget my troubles.”

Kyomugisha has now quit journalism and decided to pursue other businesses to support her family. She regrets being a journalist because of this bad experience.

Kyomugisha’s story is only one of many cases. Female journalists in Uganda confront numerous obstacles such as gender discrimination, underpayment, and unpaid salaries, while others are fired, and this does not exclude journalists with contracts.

Robert Ssempala, the president of the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), says there are many female journalists facing the same challenges, and HRNJ helps them seek legal redress as well as educate them about their rights in the workplace. He, however, urges journalists to always sign contracts and demand copies from their employers to avoid being exploited.

“We were unable to follow up with Kyomugisha’s case because we couldn’t reach her on the phone, but we usually encourage journalists to open up to us,” says Ssempala.

A study conducted between 2016 and 2021 by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre based on UNESCO Journalists’ Safety Indicators brings to light the challenges faced by journalists, particularly female journalists in Uganda, which include physical harm, poor working conditions, cyber-attacks, sexual harassment, and conflicts.

The story was first published by the Uganda Women Media Association (UMWA) and Mama FM on September 29, 2023. For the original story see: https://theothervoice.umwamamafm.co.ug/2023/09/29/fired-for-demanding-her-wage-tale-of-a-female-journalist/

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