Journalists asked to meet challenges of modern media practices

KABALE– The Chairman of the Media Council of Uganda Paulo Ekochu has underscored the importance of having vibrant and professional media practitioners in order for them to meet the challenges of modern technological needs in the media industry.

Ekochu made this revelation while addressing the journalists who were attending a 2-day media engagement meeting at Kirigime Guest House in  Kabale Municipality organized by the Media Council of Uganda under the theme, ” The drive for a responsible media in Uganda”.

He said that the Media Council of Uganda established by Section 8(i) of the Press and Journalists Act has the mandate to promote a free, responsible press and regulate the mass media in Uganda.

He reminded the participants that Uganda is the only country in Africa that has allowed freedom of speech to thrive but this has given loopholes for some people to go against established guidelines to promote free media practices.

The Chairman of the Media Council of Uganda Paulo Ekochu addressed the journalists

He however said that there are many challenges that have emerged with technological advancement which the media practitioners must come into terms with in order to be able to deliver accurate information to the masses.

The Secretary of Media Council of Uganda David Kyetume Kasanga told the journalists that the media practitioners need to do their work within the confines of the established laws thus calling upon the media owners and managers to ensure that they understand the legal framework of their operations in order to operate without hindrance.

Kyetume enumerated several legal framework procedures that media owners and practitioners must follow, such as registration of their media houses and acquisitions of an operational permit all of which are in accordance with the established laws.

Trainers who included JB Wasswa from Makerere University said that Uganda’s media will thrive if the practitioners practice their work professionally without reporting issues that mislead the general public.

Other trainers included Charles Odoobo Bichachi, the Public Editor of Nation Media Group who asked journalists to account for their work and what they feed the general public, while a member of the Media Council of Uganda Peter Okello Jabweri told the journalists to practice journalism based on professional training.

Others included Gerald Businge from Ultimate Media Consults who took the journalists through digital media practices and asked them to always distinguish between factual from fake news.

Richard Mugwisagye, from the Uganda Police Force, asked the media practitioners to follow established laws when practicing their work to avoid confrontation with security forces while the head of Legal Services in Uganda Communications Commission Abdul Sallawu Waiswa asked journalists to do their work within the confines of the law.

The training which attracted participants from Kisoro, Rubanda, Rukiga, Kabale, Rukungiri, and Kanungu will come to climax on Thursday afternoon after an award of certificates to over 100 journalists from both print and electronic media.

 

MEDIA COUNCIL OF UGANDA REGISTRATION OF PRESS AND MEDIA:

Media is a channel of communication through which we disseminate news, music, movies, education, promotions of messages and other data. It includes physical and online. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboards, telephone, internet, fax and email.

Jim Morrison once said “whoever controls the media controls the mind”. This is more than just a statement but a caution; media can easily mend a person, or corrupt a person hence media personnel have to be wary of what they feed people to build a nation. Media is growing worldwide at a fast rate where now any one can actually disseminate news through online means. Creation of social media, twitter, WhatsApp, tik-tok, Facebook has made spread of news even more versatile.

In Uganda media is involved with printing, television, radio, and online sectors and its coverage is split between both state and private outlets.  In 1990s the Uganda posts and telecommunications corporation had a monopoly over Uganda’s communication sector until Uganda communication Act was enacted in 1997. The act created Uganda Communication Commission which currently regulates communication in Uganda. In 1953,there was only one radio in Uganda(Radio Uganda) and in 1963,UBC Tv was introduced .After the liberalization of the sector in 1993 a tremendous growth of radio and TV stations has been experienced in Uganda .Today Uganda is blessed with 315 radio stations,30 television stations,60 print publications and over 70 online publications.

In 1995, media council was established by the Press and Journalist Act. This was charged with regulation of mass media with the objective to ensure there is freedom of press and to establish and regulate mass media and any disputes within or related to the industry. According to article 10(1) of the press and journalist act 1995 cap 105; (1) the council has to regulate the conduct and promote good ethical standards and discipline of journalists.

With advance of technology there is need to ensure that there is regulation and no misuse of media activities, hence media council of Uganda under section 5 of the Press and Journalist Act which provides for the registration of particulars relating to an editor including other details as prescribed by the council issued a notice in August 2021 urging all editors, publishers and broadcasters to register their editors with media council.

Registration prohibits libel or injuring reputation of others by slanderous communication, it promotes privacy and prohibits violence. With registration, journalists will be able to work together regardless of what media house they belong to, leads to authenticity of media practitioners, media personnel are protected from brutality especially when they are trying to get access to information, enhance professionalism among media practitioners and it enables making training programs easy for journalist.

Media is a powerful tool especially with mending people’s minds because public trusts what they see, read and hear on media hence it’s registration will build confidence and trust with public and government. Identification of one from the rest creates respect of the news you carry and also protects one while seeking for justice.

Training of journalists for Northern Uganda on evidence based reporting, conflict sensitive journalism, development reporting

Media Council of Uganda with support from UNDP organised a training that attracted 33 Journalists from northern Uganda, 27 male and 6 female out of the targeted 40 participants from 8 Districts of Lira, Gulu, Moroto, Kitgum, Sororti, Kotido,Abim, and Dokolo. It is conducted under the UNDP and Government of Uganda Programme; Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy (RLCD).

The Chairperson Uganda Media Council Mr. Paulo Ekochu; represented by Council Member Mr. Venis Omona opened the training. He said this was an intervention to improve quality of media content in Uganda after conducting an assessment in 2016 during the 9 regional media dialogue sessions with close to 700 media practitioners. Mr Omona said journalists play a critical role of the voice of the voiceless, overseers of accountability to the citizens, and bridge of development are called upon to be professional and this is what the Media Council of Uganda is targeting.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology and National Guidance, Mr. Vincent Bagire was represented by the Principal Information Officer and Secretary to Media Council Pius Mwinganisa. He highlighted the streamlining of the media regulatory agencies under one ministry as a way to strengthen the Media. He said Uganda Vision 2040 which feeds into Second National Development Plan (NDP II) emphasises the central role of the media in supporting the country’s socio-economic transformation and institutional strength. He noted that quality of media content is faced with the test of new media often called social media; its effects on traditional media continues to increasing and therefore journalists have to be more vigilant in professional practice with facts, balanced reporting and constant improvement in the use of new technologies.

UNDP Country Director Ms. Almaz Gebru recognized the vital role of the media keeping communities informed, educated and well-informed people ensure deepening democracy, participation of citizens and transparency by those holding public offices. In her speech presented by Ms Florence Ochola, she accentuated UN/UNDP’s commitment to work with and support the media as an essential communication tool to enable positive mindset of societies. She implored the media to minimize on sensational or sleaze reporting and deliberately shape the development agenda of Uganda. She pointed out key aspects as: fostering social engagement, sustaining a culture of constitutional democracy and rule of law; enable access to public information; empower the public to demand and meet their obligations; messaging that fosters protection of human rights, conflict sensitive situations but also nature affirmative action for women, youth, and marginalized groups.

Trainers demonstrating to journalists regarding evidence reporting in Gulu

The Team Leader Gulu UN-Human Rights Commission Mr. Peter Mefor encouraged journalists to take their role of accountability seriously and perusing justice while presenting journalism with a human rights perspective.

During the training media practitioners were equipped with skills in the following areas: factual, balanced and well sourced reporting to strongly base on evidence; conflict sensitive reporting, professional, ethical practice and reporting that focuses on improving the lives of the people. Participants raised the journalists’ major practical dilemma of conflict of interest while reporting, nepotism, corruption in form of hand outs to journalists, invention of privacy and human rights violations of journalists by some leaders and some sections of society under mob action. The challenges associated with multiplicity of roles in media practice of, at times being a station manager, reporter, editor, talk-show moderator and program producer without adequate formal training and most without out contracts and inadequate remuneration; all of which participants said contribute to affecting quality of the media.

The training model on basic reporting covered the following: generating story ideas, identification and cultivation of sources, tools required for effective reporting. The module on rule of law, constitutional democracy and human rights focused on: understanding the laws that affect the practice of journalism in Uganda, the importance of the rule of law, journalists as human rights defenders and promotion of constitutionalism. The module of Media and Accountability covered; journalists as observers, ears and eyes in engaging community leaders, and government service providers; journalists owning their mistakes and taking corrective measure and being accountable to the people. The module on Evidence based reporting raised: how to base of facts and cross checking information; reliable sources and double checking facts and how to use internet and getting correct data to support the information from sources. The Model on development reporting covered: appreciation of the role of the media in development, information to empower local communities amidst competing story ideas. The Module on Conflict sensitive reporting focused on: journalism balancing side in conflict situations, avoiding escalating conflict and inflammatory language and how journalists are to safe guard themselves in conflict situation, clear identification and introduction to leaders in the communities.

The Participants committed to follow-up the training with documentation of their reports along the indicators of the training modules, work with Media Council of Uganda to monitor improvement in reporting on a quarterly basis. Council Members represented by Mr. Venis Omona, Mr. Peter J. Okello, and Ms. Lindah Waboka Nabusayi committed to work with journalists and partner with other agencies to continue improving the media legal and policy environment in Uganda.

Media Council Member Secretary, Pius Mwinganisa (right) with Council Members Ms Lindah Wanboka Nabusayi and Mr. Venis Omona(Left) monitoring the training of Journalists in Gulu