I WROTE about the National Union of Journalists’ code of ethics last week.
Well I have a small confession regarding rule eight which states that a journalist should resist threats or inducements to influence or suppress information.
There was an occasion when this particular rule was balanced on a knife edge.
The year was 1963 and I was night editor on the Uganda Nation newspaper. I was alone in the editorial office in Kampala. The paper was almost ready to roll when two large African gentlemen strolled in.
“We want to make a statement,” one said.
He introduced himself as a Ugandan affiliate of the Kenya African National Union.
Election results from neighbouring Kenya had arrived on the wire an hour before.
KANU had swept to victory.
“A story is already in the paper,” I said.
“And the paper is ready to run.”
The gentleman swung a machete rather elegantly from shoulder height so that it stuck in the desk in front of me.
“A short statement,” he said.
Who was I to refuse?
I accepted his statement, he retrieved his machete and bid me good night.
I had a momentary crisis of conscience but decided a local angle on Kenyan elections was worth it anyway, inserted his two paragraphs and the paper ran five minutes late.
Did I break the code? Or was I just being sensible?