This report contains findings from research on newspaper coverage of health in Uganda between July 2015 and June 2017 conducted by African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) in the last half of 2018. The study sought to provide systematic evidence to support informed analysis and debate about health coverage in Uganda.
Five major Ugandan print publications were reviewed under this study. They are:
- Daily Monitor
- New Vision
- The Observer
- The Independent
The research is one of the key outputs of ACME’s project, “Entrenching Knowledge-Based Health Journalism in Uganda,” which was funded by the United States Mission in Uganda between 2016 and 2018.
The research findings offer a mixed picture. On the positive front, there appears to be some progress in key reporting areas such as provision of context, use of multiple sources and a healthy focus on non-communicable diseases, which are a major global health challenge. On the negative side, however, the predominance of the hard news storytelling format with the accompanying lack of depth, enterprise and investigation, limited diversity in sourcing, and over reliance on officialdom, emasculate the contribution of the media to more responsiveness, transparency and accountability in the health sector.
Predominance of the conventional hard news format
Health stories are still largely reported using the conventional hard news format. We could go as far as saying that most reporting is on the surface level. There is little depth, enterprise, analysis and investigation.
Concentration of coverage on diseases and outbreaks
Findings show that stories about diseases were dominant, compared to those about institutional or sector management of health, drugs, and equipment and supplies. While this is not bad in itself, it points to the fact that the media is not treating health as a sector with various interlinked branches; or one that deserves proactive coverage, even when there are no disease outbreaks.
Central government focus and officialdom
The central government is the focus of most health stories, according to our findings, while newsmakers are also mainly ‘officials’. This is true for Ugandan media coverage of public affairs generally. The focus on officialdom in reporting comes at the expense of highlighting voices of “ordinary” persons
Limited diversity of voices in the media
Our findings show that gender parity in health coverage and in general public affairs coverage is still generally skewed towards men. Additionally, government and its officials also dominate media when assessed through newsmakers and occupation of sources that make it into the news. In cases where ordinary persons feature, they are portrayed primarily as victims, affected persons or perpetrators.
Download the full report below.