By Grace Natabaalo
About 40 journalists working in the oil-rich Albertine region have launched a reporter’s network aimed at advancing their knowledge of the oil and gas sector.
The association, Albertine Oil Reporters Network, brings together reporters, talk show hosts/presenters, and editors from more than 10 districts in the Albertine.
The journalists were all trained, in five batches of eight, by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in effective coverage of the oil and gas sector between August 2012 and July 2014 with support from the MacArthur Foundation.
Hoima Municipality Town Clerk Emmanuel Banya launched the network on Saturday, 1 November 2014, during the awarding of certificates of completion at Trisek Hotel in Hoima.
“We decided to come together and form a network and it will help us to have a stronger voice as journalists reporting on oil and gas,” said Mr Augustus Bigirwenkya, a senior member of the association and a journalist with Radio Kitara based in Masindi. “At times getting information is hard but when we come out as a body, we can easily get that information.”
Mr Bigirwenkya said that the network will work with all stakeholders in the Albertine region to improve transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector.
The launch of the network was funded by ACME and the Refugee Law Project (RLP), which is interested in early warning and prevention of conflict by focusing on underlying drivers such as contest over access to natural resources.
The media are the eyes and ears in areas where there is potential for conflict, said Mr Stephen Oola, the programme manager for conflict, transitional justice and governance at RLP.
According to RLP research, Mr Oola said, communities in Acholi and Masindi point out that natural resources were a likely source of conflicts.
“We use media as a tool for information gathering and dissemination in terms of being agents for providing early warning,” Mr Oola said.
He said they had trained journalists in the region on conflict-sensitive reporting and added that the network will help the journalists share information easily amongst themselves.
The launch was also attended by ACME’s Director of Programmes Bernard Tabaire, the Bunyoro-Kitara-Kingdom Deputy Prime Minister Blasio Mugasa, and Senior Communications Officer Gloria Ssebikari from the government’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department.
Mr Tabaire challenged the journalists to take the network forward by establishing an office and a resource centre as “crucial physical points of reference”.