The Ugandan media industry needs a paradigm shift, which deconstructs media values that hinder performance and promote conflict, Dr William Tayeebwa has said.
Dr Tayeebwa, Head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University, made this call in his keynote address at a World Press Freedom Day 2017 conference held in Kampala on Wednesday. He said that the paradigm shift, sometimes called ‘peace journalism’ or ‘conflict-sensitive reporting’, will enable journalists to frame news in a manner that values and promotes communal harmony, dialogue and reconciliation.
Dr Tayeebwa acknowledged that the media in Uganda faces several challenges that make it difficult for them to promote inclusive and peaceful societies through proactive reporting. Among them, he said, is “the inability by media institutions to surmount the challenges posed by imperatives of the market, as well as the deliberate actions by the state to curtail freedoms of expression and of the media through restrictive laws.”
The journalism lecturer cited the example of KTN anchor Joy Doreen Biira, who was arrested and charged with abetting terrorism last year for reporting about the confrontation between Ugandan security operatives and royal guards of Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere in Kasese.
“Given the many challenges thrown their way in Uganda, individual journalists easily burn-out and leave the profession to juniors who lack the professional competences to do a good job on complex subjects such as peace, conflict and violence,” Dr Tayeebwa said.
Dr Tayeebwa, who presented a paper titled, ‘The role and challenges of the media in Uganda in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development,’ said that media institutions need to work towards more professional and friendly working environments to ensure retention of senior journalists.
Ms. Barbara Kaija, the Editor-in-Chief of Vision Group, who discussed Dr Tayeebwa’s paper, said all challenges facing the media are secondary to the funding challenges currently being experienced.
“Media freedom is dependent on sufficient funding. Good journalism costs money. Good journalism depends on good quality people and good quality people cost money,” she said.
Ms Kaija said media around the world are grappling with dwindling advertising revenue and insufficient support.
“The audience wants news and information; they want it in real time. They want it well packaged and accurate; and this is at no cost to them!” she noted.
Ms Kaija called on media consumers and buyers who believe in media freedom to create businesses to fund it and to work together with the industry to innovate models “that foster development journalism without compromising independence.”
The World Press Freedom Day Kampala conference was organized by African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in conjunction with other media and human rights organisations, with support from the U.S. Mission in Kampala, Hivos Eastern Africa, the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda and the Democratic Governance Facility. It was part of a series of events to mark the day that started with a dialogue in Gulu last Friday and will end with a similar event to be held in Mbarara on 5 May.