Journalists and the media as a whole, in any democratic society, play a critical role in holding, receiving and imparting all forms of opinion, ideas and information. Therefore, the importance of recognising and inspiring those gallant men and women who devote their time, energy and effort to excel in this profession cannot be overemphasized.
– Chief Justice Bart Katureebe
On Wednesday 8 April 2015, more than 300 people converged at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala for the biggest celebration of journalism excellence in Uganda. The Uganda National Journalism Awards 2015, organised by the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), recognised exemplary reporting, high professional standards and the distinction of journalists whose work set them apart in 2014.
18 journalists from both print and broadcast won first-place awards in 19 reporting categories in the second edition of the event that was supported by Hivos, a Dutch international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues. Each winner received a certificate of excellence, a specially crafted plaque and a Ush2.5 million prize. 20 second-place winners were also recognised for their work, receiving a certificate of excellence and a Ush1 million prize.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Uganda’s recently-appointed Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, called for all journalists to aspire to meet the measures against which the entries to the awards were judged. He called for accuracy in reporting, comprehensiveness, compelling and solid storytelling, originality and enterprise in reporting, and journalism that offers insight, analysis and in depth examination of issues of public concern.
Mr Katureebe noted that these tenets are particularly important as Uganda enters the general election season.
“Given the charged nature of our competitive electoral politics,” he said, “there will inevitably arise questions of accuracy in reporting, access by politicians from all sides to both private and public media, and concerns about hate speech.”
“No matter the side you are on, you must not lose sight of the need to keep your proper journalistic standards. Responsible reporting will promote healthy debate of national issues. Petty and narrow reporting, in my view, distorts the debate,” he emphasised.
The keynote address, delivered by Ms Ferial Haffajee the editor-in-chief of City Press, a South African Sunday newspaper, was an additional rallying cry to reporting that goes beyond the norm to equip audiences with information that enables them to meaningfully contribute to democratic debate and national transformation.
Noting that technology has turned nearly everyone into a journalist, Ms Haffajee said traditional journalism skills like analysis, storytelling and narrative excellence are more important now than ever. She said that while there is a need for journalists to adapt to changing times, they must not forget the reason for their existence: to give a voice to the voiceless and to be tools for social change.
The need for journalism with impact was also emphasised by the panel that judged the awards.
The panel’s chair, Dr George Lugalambi, observed that there was a marked improvement in entries in the second edition of the awards. He noted that there were several entries that creatively deployed the use of old and new reporting tools to tell compelling stories, and provided context in a way that educated audiences and added substantially to their understanding.
Dr Lugalambi, a journalism and media academic who served as head of the Department of Mass Communication at Makerere University, said the winning entries explained complex issues by “humanising the stories with voices and perspectives of those affected by the issues or events being reported.” He added that they were lucid accounts that brought important, but otherwise dull issues, to life.
For Mr Chrisogon Atukwasize, the sole entrant in and winner of the editorial cartooning category, the Uganda National Journalism Awards were the motivation he needed to aspire to great heights.
His entry, ‘Amama Mbabazi, the secretly general’ that was published in Daily Monitor, was heralded for its humorous portrayal of one of the biggest political stories of 2014. Although it was the sole entry, the judges noted that it was beautifully drawn, timely and provided an important light-hearted platform to debate issues of multipartyism, political succession and change.
“Now I am challenged, even more, to produce work that is up to a certain standard,” said Mr Atukwasize.
This year the Uganda National Journalism Awards also incorporated the Nile Breweries Award for Exceptional Journalism. The 2015 winner, Mr Stephen Ssenkaaba of New Vision, was a three-time runner up in the Uganda National Journalism Awards whose work throughout the year under review was judged to be of consistent, high quality.
Additionally, Mr Ssenkaaba was celebrated for exhibiting high professional standards, for having in depth knowledge of his reporting beats and showing considerable evidence of growth in 2014.
“The Uganda National Journalism Awards and the Nile Breweries Award for Exceptional Journalism are a vote of confidence from Uganda’s most accomplished media practitioners,” he said.
“I am proud about this achievement, but I am also challenged to work even better. That means I cannot afford to slip or slacken,” added Mr Ssenkaaba.
The winning entries covered everything from food and nutrition to taboo traditional practices and the complexities and controversies of Uganda’s banking system. The first-place winners are:
Tyaba Abubakar Ssettumba, NBS Television
Series: Investigating the cause of severe malnutrition in Western Uganda
Arts and culture
Caroline Ariba, New Vision
Cherotich did not have to die
Business, economy and finance
John Masaba and John Semakula, New Vision
Government stops guaranteeing bank loans
John Semakula, New Vision
Hot districts that will determine the winner of the 2016 presidential elections
Chrisogon Atukwasize, Daily Monitor
Amama Mbabazi, the secretly general
Energy, oil, gas and mining
Edward Ssekika, The Observer
Series – The challenging of managing the environment in an oil economy
Ronald Musoke, The Independent
Would you trust this man? NEMA’s latest mess
Andrew Masinde, New Vision
Sh7,000 per pupil is more than enough, say private schools
Frank Walusimbi, NTV Uganda
Series – Eaten alive: An insight into Rakai’s cannibalism
Bamuturaki Musinguzi, Daily Monitor
Series – The burden of neglected tropical diseases
Edris Kiggundu, The Observer
Entebbe Airport yellow fever scam exposed
Justice, law and order
Joan Akello, The Independent
Jimmy Kwo, Daily Monitor
Remembering NRM’s massacre at Namukora
Pascal Kwesiga, Campus Times
MDG Debate: Whose millennium development goals?
National news – Broadcast
Solomon Serwanja, NTV Uganda
Kampala’s ticking time bomb
National news – Print
Pascal Kwesiga, New Vision
Underfunding hits free primary education
Daniel Edyegu, New Vision
Male circumcision ceremony
Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi, Daily Monitor
Amama Mbabazi vs. President Museveni: The inside story
Bakhit Hafiz, Radio Pacis
Investigating the impact of sports betting on Arua residents
Additional support for the Uganda National Journalism Awards 2015 was provided by Nile Breweries, CNOOC, Total E&P, NTV Uganda, The Observer, New Vision, Daily Monitor and the Uganda Communications Commission.
The runners-up are:
- Agriculture – Adiah Nakuti, UBC Television
- Arts and culture – Stephen Ssenkaaba, New Vision
- Business – John Isingoma, Weinformers.net
- Data journalism – Isaac Khisa, The EastAfrican
- Energy, oil, gas and mining – Andrew Arinaitwe, Channel 44
- Environment – Gerald Tenywa, New Vision
- Explanatory reporting – Conan Businge, Caroline Ariba, Stephen Ssenkaaba, Jonathan Angura & Angel Musinguzi, New Vision
- Features – Stephen Ssenkaaba, New Vision
- Health – Raziah Athman, Urban Television
- Investigative reporting – Raymond Mujuni, Uganda Radio Network
- Justice, law and order – Annet Lekuru, Radio Pacis
- Local reporting – Felix Warom, Daily Monitor
- Multimedia journalism – Antonio Kisembo, Weinformer.net
- National news (broadcast) – Benard Yiga, UBC Television
- National news (print) – Herbert Benon Oluka, The Observer
- Photojournalism – Paul Menya, Daily Monitor
- Political reporting – Edris Kiggundu, The Observer
- Sports – Andrew Mwanguhya, Daily Monitor
In 2015, three new categories were added to the awards: data journalism, photojournalism, justice law and order. The category previously known as reporting oil and gas was expanded to include reporting on energy and mining.